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Industry & Member News

Green Work Trucks

Green Work Trucks

By Doyle Sumrall
NTEA Senior Director of Business Development

It was not hard to find the color “green” at The Work Truck Show® 2009, held in conjunction with the 45th Annual NTEA Convention March 3–6, 2009 in Chicago, IL. This year, the NTEA increased its focus on “green” products and technologies, helping attendees learn the latest information on this growing industry trend.

Green Truck Summit
The Green Truck Summit, held March 3, had record attendance of more than 330 industry professionals who were treated to the innovative and insightful thoughts of Texas billionaire and energy activist T. Boone Pickens. In his keynote speech, Pickens described the current state of energy production and consumption in the U.S and stressed the need for the nation to reduce its dependence on foreign oil by pursuing alternative fuels and technologies.

AT&T recently announced plans to spend up to $565 million over the next decade on the replacement of thousands of vehicles in its fleet with models that run on alternative fuels. The company estimates it will spend $350 million on compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles and $215 million on hybrid or alternative fuel passenger cars. This is a key indicator that CNG as an alternative fuel is gaining ground. In his speech, Pickens reinforced this idea, saying that CNG is a great alternative fuel and that the U.S. could easily be third in the world in natural gas reserves, making it an ideal choice for transportation fuel. See page 22 for a recap of the Green Truck Summit, which was sponsored by International Truck.

Green Truck Ride-and-Drive
The Work Truck Show also featured the Green Truck Ride-and-Drive, where participants had the opportunity to test drive vehicles equipped with the latest alternative drive and fuel technologies for work trucks. For example, attendees could hit the city streets with a CNG-powered Ford E-350 van converted by Baker Equipment using a BAF Technologies fuel system, or with the Smith Electric Vehicles “Newton” medium-duty box van equipped with a Smith all-electric drive system.

In a direct reflection of market changes, the Ride-and-Drive has come a long way in its three-year history, progressing from only four vehicles to this year’s total of 15. Low fuel capacity and limited fueling stations made CNG less than successful a few years ago, but today it’s enjoying a strong following. Several NTEA member companies are performing conversions and many fleets are gravitating to CNG as a cleaner, and in some cases, cheaper fuel.

Hydraulic hybrids are also entering the Class 3–8 market. At this year’s show, Chelsea Products Div. of Parker displayed a Dodge 4500 chassis upfitted with a dump body and snowplow. This unit utilized a Parker Chelsea hydraulic “stored energy” system to power its accessory equipment.

The market for electric drive trucks has experienced strong growth as well. Smith Electric Vehicles, which sponsored the Ride-and-Drive, showcased the “Newton” (as mentioned above) with a Smith all-electric drive system.

DUECO, Inc. demonstrated how a hybrid electric drive system can benefit from overnight charging, displaying an International 4300 chassis upfitted as a utility truck and converted to a plug-in electric hybrid drive system utilizing a DUECO/Odyne parallel electric hybrid drive system. These and many other electrified systems are great examples of how recapturing energy that is normally lost can dramatically reduce operating costs and improve work truck emissions.

Green Truck Pavilion
The Green Truck Pavilion area of the show floor, also sponsored by Smith Electric Vehicles, showcased the latest hybrid and alternative fuel technology and products. One of the many fascinating exhibits was the all-hydraulic transmission designed to be a direct replacement for the 4L80E and similar transmissions. Limo-Reid Technologies, Inc. has developed this transmission, incorporating accumulators that capture the deceleration energy and use it to launch the vehicle, which improves fuel usage. 

Other Green Offerings
The general exhibit floor also featured a whole spectrum of innovative green technology. Isuzu Commercial Truck of America, Inc. showcased a liquid propane gas-fueled ice cream truck that attracted a lot attention for its cargo. At the other end of the spectrum, Brigade Electronics displayed a simple solar battery charger.

Kidron Div. of VT Specialized Vehicles Corp. introduced UltraTemp, a cold plate integrated with Azure Dynamic’s Low Emission Electric Power (LEEP) hybrid system that delivers significant improvements in fuel utilization and emission levels. According to Kidron, UltraTemp eliminates more than 90% of the fuel consumption and emissions of a mechanical cold plate system.

Miller Electric Mfg. Co. introduced EnPak, an auxiliary power unit that combines a variable speed rotary screw air compressor; an Eaton variable displacement piston hydraulic pump; and 6,000 watts of generator power.

The work truck industry is changing rapidly, and hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles and products are becoming a fast growing market segment. As demonstrated at The Work Truck Show 2009, many industry firms are incorporating “green” strategies into their planning processes. Is your company ready to deliver the green solutions that the work truck user community seeks? 

Posted on Friday, May 21, 2010