Freightliner introduces medium-duty hybrid prototype

Freightliner LLC president and CEO Chris Patterson introduced a proof-of-concept prototype utility truck and discussed the company's plans to bring medium-duty hybrid vehicles to the market.

The prototype vehicle on display at GATS, a Class 7 Business Class M2 106, is an example of how Freightliner LLC can integrate engine, powertrain and other vehicle functions with industry-leading and environmentally responsible technology.

The prototype is a full-parallel hybrid, similar to hybrid electric cars, with regenerative braking that recharges the batteries and electric launch functionality. It has an integrated electric motor in line with the engine and transmission, enabling operation with electric or diesel power, either separately or in combination. The truck launches with electric power and the diesel engine provides additional torque as required.

The prototype is a Business Class M2 106 model with a 33,000-lb. GVWR chassis powered by a 230-horsepower MBE 900 engine that offers 660-lb. ft. of torque. By incorporating a 44-kilowatt, 59-horsepower electric motor, the engine can achieve 290 horsepower and 860 lb. ft. torque when the electric and diesel motors are paired. Simulations and testing have shown significant fuel economy improvements over conventional diesel engines and promises to greatly reduce vehicle operating costs for customers.

"Freightliner LLC has been testing hybrid vans for some time through our Freightliner Custom Chassis business unit. This prototype is an important step toward future production of a medium-duty hybrid commercial vehicle," said Michael Delaney, senior vice president of marketing, Freightliner LLC. "We are bullish on hybrid technology and its future in the commercial marketplace."

Delaney added, "While other companies also are testing hybrid technology, we are proud to have the most hybrid vehicles of any North American commercial manufacturer on the roads today. We look forward to leading the expansion of commercial hybrid vehicle offerings as well."

Of special interest to utility customers, the prototype vehicle on display integrates the Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) system with hydraulics for electric power takeoff (ePTO) operation. On a jobsite, the engine remains off for the majority of the operation with the hydraulics being run by batteries. When the batteries get low, the engine automatically turns on to recharge them. This takes approximately five minutes and, when the batteries are fully recharged, the engine automatically turns itself off. Work is not interrupted during this process.

Besides the significant fuel savings, this prototype vehicle features additional advantages for utility customers. Because of the ePTO operation, utility companies will be able to perform their duties with significantly less idle time, meaning lower levels of noise, heat and exhaust emissions. And, because the batteries are charged by regenerative braking, brake shoes will receive far less wear, extending their life and reducing maintenance costs.

Pending final results of tests currently underway with this proof-of-concept vehicle, Freightliner LLC is considering implementing the hybrid system in a variety of medium-duty trucking segments, including beverage, school bus and pick-up and delivery applications.

Freightliner LLC is collaborating with the Hybrid Business Unit of Eaton Corporation on this effort. Eaton Corporation is a diversified industrial manufacturer with four major business segments, including development of intelligent drivetrain systems for safety and fuel economy.

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