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Eaton Begins Production Of Hybrid Power Systems For Medium-Duty Trucks

Systems are showing signification improvements in fuel economy.

Eaton Corp. announced Aug. 9 that its medium-duty hybrid power systems are now commercially available and will be ready for customer deliveries in 2008 on the chassis of several major North American commercial vehicle manufacturers in 2008. These include International Truck and Engine Corp., Kenworth Truck Co., Peterbilt Motors and Freightliner Corp.

The announcement follows more than four years of development and 2 million miles of successful field-testing in North America, Europe and Asia. More than 220 hybrid-powered vehicles have been produced to date for testing and evaluation -- most of which have been placed into service alongside their conventionally-powered counterparts.

"Eaton formed this business unit almost seven years ago to provide a cleaner and more fuel-efficient future for the world's commercial vehicle fleet," said James E. Sweetnam, Eaton senior vice president and president -- Truck Group.

Vehicle configurations include package delivery vans, medium-duty delivery trucks, beverage haulers, city buses and utility repair trucks -- each of which has generated significant fuel economy gains and emission reductions, according to the company. The company reports that its hybrid power systems in these and other applications are generating fuel economy improvements of up to 60% and significant reductions in harmful emissions.

Fleet customers for Eaton hybrid power have so far included FedEx Express, UPS, Coca-Cola Enterprises, The Pepsi Bottling Group and 14 public utility fleets into which were placed 24 hybrid-powered repair trucks. Additional testing is taking place in Europe with DAF Trucks, and in Asia with the Beiqi Foton Bus Co.

In the hybrid systems being released into production, Eaton employs a parallel-type diesel-electric hybrid architecture with its Fuller UltraShift automated transmission. It incorporates an electric motor/generator between the output of an automated clutch and input of the transmission. The system recovers energy normally lost during braking and stores the energy in batteries. When electric torque is blended with engine torque, the stored energy is used to improve fuel economy and vehicle performance for a given speed or used to operate the vehicle with electric power only. The system can also be designed to provide energy for use during engine-off worksite operations, further reducing noise, emissions and fuel costs.

In addition to its diesel-electric hybrid products, Eaton is also developing advanced hybrid systems using hydraulic power. Working with the Environmental Protection Agency Eaton is helping develop a "series hydraulic hybrid" power system that combines a high-efficiency diesel engine and a unique hydraulic propulsion system to replace the conventional drivetrain and transmission. The vehicle uses hydraulic pump/motors and hydraulic storage tanks to recover and store energy, similar to what is done with electric motors and batteries in hybrid electric vehicles.

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