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Eaton Commits to Hybrid-Electric Technology for Commercial Vehicles

Eaton Corporation has announced its intention to become a primary supplier of hybrid-electric vehicle (HEV) powertrain technology and products to the commercial vehicle industry.

Acknowledging that there was still much work to be done, Eaton officials Tim Morscheck and Kevin Beaty used a press conference at the Technology and Maintenance Council spring meeting to present their strategy to participate in the transformation of powertrain technology for commercial vehicles. They expect hybrid technology to significantly improve vehicle performance, fuel efficiency and emission reductions.

"HEV powertrain technology has moved out of the think-tank and into the development labs," said Tim Morscheck, vice president of Technology for Eaton's Truck Components business unit. "The FedEx project will serve as a catalyst for accelerated development, and we'll see real vehicles on real roads doing real work in less than 24 months."

Morscheck was referring to a FedEx Express announcement made February 26, 2002, that it had selected three finalists - including Eaton - to participate in its search for a hybrid electric Class 4 step-van to become its delivery truck in 2004. Eaton will deliver its prototype to FedEx in September 2002. Morscheck peered farther into the future, and concluded that HEV would provide a key bridging technology to future fuel-cell powered vehicles.

Kevin Beaty, business unit manager for Eaton's HEV Powertrain program, presented Eaton's mission and strategy, while stressing the need for increased collaboration between engine, powertrain, electronics suppliers and the truck OEMs, as well as large end-user fleets like FedEx.

According to Beaty, Eaton plans to develop a parallel-type, "Direct Hybrid" system, incorporating an electric motor/generator located between the output of an automated clutch and the input to an Eaton ® Fuller ® AutoShift ® transmission. In some cases, truck OEMs may also source an integrated Powertrain Supervisory Control system from Eaton. This architecture makes it possible to recover energy normally lost during braking and store the energy in batteries or other energy storage devices. Electric torque can be blended with engine torque to improve vehicle performance and to operate the engine in its most fuel-efficient range for a given speed - or finally to operate the vehicle with electric power only.

"Development of a long-lived, reliable and efficient HEV powertrain must be approached on a system basis," said Beaty, mentioning joint engineering and planning with Hitachi, FedEx Express, selected truck OEMs and engine manufacturers. "No successful HEV system can be supplied without collaboration - which may involve unique partnerships we would never have considered in a conventional powertrain development process," he concluded.

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