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Eaton Begins Production of Hybrid Systems for Trucks

Sun October 28, 2007 - National Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Eaton Corporation’s medium-duty hybrid power systems are now commercially available and will be ready for customer deliveries in 2008 on the chassis of several major North American commercial vehicle manufacturers. These include International Truck and Engine Corporation, Kenworth Truck Co., Peterbilt Motors and Freightliner Corporation.

The announcement follows more than four years of development and two million mi. of successful field-testing in North America, Europe and Asia.

“Eaton formed this business unit almost seven years ago to provide a cleaner and more fuel-efficient future for the world’s commercial vehicle fleet,” said James E. Sweetnam, Eaton senior vice president and president — Truck Group. “Now, we’re poised to fulfill that goal with the help of our forward-looking OEM and fleet partners that share our vision.”

According to Kevin Beaty, manager of Eaton’s Hybrid Power Systems business unit, the company plans to produce several hundred systems in 2007. Eaton is planning to ramp-up production capacity over the next three years in order to meet customer demand and achieve economies of scale.

More than 220 hybrid-powered vehicles with Eaton’s advanced technology systems have been produced to date for testing and evaluation — most of which have been placed into service alongside their conventionally powered counterparts.

Vehicle configurations include package delivery vans, medium-duty delivery trucks, beverage haulers, city buses and utility repair trucks — each of which has generated significant fuel economy gains and emission reductions, according to the company.

Fleet customers for Eaton hybrid power have so far included FedEx Express, UPS, Coca-Cola Enterprises, The Pepsi Bottling Group, and 14 public utility fleets into which were placed 24 hybrid-powered repair trucks. Truck body builders also involved in the delivery of new vehicles include Altec Industries of Birmingham, Ala., Terex Corporation of Westport, Conn., and others. Additional testing is taking place in Europe with DAF Trucks, and in Asia with the Beiqi Foton Bus Company, one of China’s largest commercial vehicle producers. Eaton hybrid power systems in these and other applications are generating fuel economy improvements of up to 60 percent and significant reductions in harmful emissions.

“Financial incentives at the local, state and national level will help encourage early adoption,” said Beaty. “Meanwhile, increased production volumes will help drive down the per-unit cost of the systems and empower the industry to offer a compelling value proposition that is sustainable.”

Beaty added that Eaton is looking forward to significant government-related purchases of hybrid-powered trucks for its fleet operations noting that many of these same government agencies also are offering the purchase incentives. “We hope to see hybrid power encouraged and mandated in ways similar to what is being done today for alternative fuel vehicles,” said Beaty.

In the hybrid systems being released into production, Eaton employs a parallel-type diesel-electric hybrid architecture with Eaton’s Fuller UltraShift automated transmission. It incorporates an electric motor/generator between the output of an automated clutch and input of the transmission. The system recovers energy normally lost during braking and stores the energy in batteries.

When electric torque is blended with engine torque, the stored energy is used to improve fuel economy and vehicle performance for a given speed or used to operate the vehicle with electric power only. The system also can be designed to provide energy for use during engine-off work site operations, further reducing noise, emissions and fuel costs.

In addition to its diesel-electric hybrid products, Eaton also is developing advanced hybrid systems using hydraulic power. Working with the Environmental Protection Agency under a Cooperative Research and Development agreement, Eaton is helping develop a “series hydraulic hybrid” power system that combines a high-efficiency diesel engine and a unique hydraulic propulsion system to replace the conventional drivetrain and transmission. The vehicle uses hydraulic pump/motors and hydraulic storage tanks to recover and store energy, similar to what is done with electric motors and batteries in hybrid electric vehicles.

Eaton also has a “parallel hydraulic hybrid” system that utilizes regenerative braking and has a number of other applications. This system, known as the Eaton HLA system (for Hydraulic Launch Assist), is being initially targeted at refuse trucks.

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