International, Eaton to build diesel-electric hybrid trucks for national pilot program

International Truck and Engine Corp and Eaton Corp have been selected to manufacture diesel-electric hybrid trucks for a national pilot program serving the utility industry. The pilot truck program is the largest in the nation so far and will test at least 20 factory-built International utility trucks with a hybrid powertrain system jointly developed by the two companies.

The program was announced at the Hybrid Truck Users Forum operated by WestStart, an advanced technology consortium bringing together truck fleet users, truck makers, technology companies, and the United States military. WestStart will administer the pilot program through the support of the US Army's National Automotive Center, the Army's official link to working with commercial and academic partners. The center's director, Dennis J Wend, believes diesel-electric hybrid technology built on a commercial truck platform will benefit utilities and other commercial customers and can be rapidly transferred to military applications.

Both International and Eaton believe diesel-electric hybrid technology holds significant promise. If the pilot program is successful and customer needs are met, International is prepared to produce diesel-electric hybrid trucks as early as 2006.

Initially, the powertrain will couple an International DT 466 in-line six-cylinder diesel engine with an Eaton hybrid-electric drivetrain, incorporating a transmission, batteries, and permanent magnet motor. Power from the engine is converted directly into electrical energy, which then incorporates the conventional drivetrain to power the truck. The system recovers kinetic energy during braking, charging the batteries while the truck is slowing down. This provides more power for acceleration, making the hybrid trucks ideal for in-city driving situations with frequent starting and stopping. Additionally, the hybrid truck used in the pilot will operate the utility bucket in an electric-only mode, with the engine shut off, for up to two hours and provide electric power during idling.

The diesel-electric hybrid test vehicles, which are International 4000 Series medium trucks, will be manufactured at International's Springfield OH truck assembly plant. The International Dealer Network, along with a team of specialists from both International and Eaton, will provide field support for the units.

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