Is There a Heavy-Duty Hybrid in Your Future?

More travels... This week I'm in Atlanta, at the National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) Work Truck Show. I just got out of a session called "Hybrid and Alternative Fuels Commercial Vehicle Initiatives," and I was surprised to learn how far medium-duty and heavy-duty hybrid trucks have come along. International is already producing Class-6 and Class-7 hybrid utility trucks, and several other manufacturers are following right behind. But just wait until 2009: that's when Mack, Volvo and Peterbilt plan to introduce hybrid Class-8 tractors, and that will be a very interesting development. Just think about it: a Class-8 tractor that derives its torque from a combination of a diesel engine and an electric motor, so that your fuel economy gets a sizeable boost and your emissions are reduced significantly. It uses regenerative braking, transferring braking energy into additional charging for the drive batteries (some transit fleets using hybrid buses with regenerative braking report that they can go a full year between brake jobs). And the technology is transparent to drivers: in medium-duty applications, drivers don't notice any difference in performance between hybrids and traditional trucks. I know what you're thinking: they're going to be expensive. Yes, there will be incremental costs, but a lot of people at the meeting today are working hard to make sure there will be financial incentives to soften the blow. Let's face it: you're going to have to change the way operate whether you like it or not. All things considered, a hybrid is a pretty attrative way to go.