The landscape for utility fleets is changing again. Earlier this year, the first-ever fuel efficiency and carbon rules for trucks were put in place. Following the process used for light-duty vehicles, the new rules set standards for all on-highway vehicles with GVW ratings above 8,500 pounds. The new rules that will take effect include U.S. Environmental Protection Agency greenhouse gas regulations beginning with 2014 model year vehicles and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fuel consumption regulations that begin with the 2016 model year.
Under these new regulations, fuel efficiency will rise and carbon emissions will go down for all vehicle classes, including tractors, Class 3 to 8 vocational work trucks, and heavy-duty pickups and vans. Manufacturers are expected to meet the new regulations with both engine and full vehicle technology approaches.
The 2011 Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference, held in Williamsburg, Va., featured a series of presentations on “Focused Strategies for Future Success” by industry experts, manufacturers and fleets. Of interest to the fleet managers in attendance were several presentations on green fleet issues by industry and government stakeholders.
Status and Trends of Green Tech and Fuels in Commercial Vehicles
Bill Van Amburg
Senior Vice President, CALSTART
“Nearly 70 percent of oil used in the U.S. goes to transportation,” Van Amburg said. “To address energy security, transportation must be a top focus. There are two main ways to achieve reductions in imported oil, and we need both. We have to use less fuel to do the same work and switch to nonpetroleum sources.”
To make a business case for alternative fuel-powered commercial vehicles, Van Amburg said, fuel cost issues need to be addressed. “The medium- and heavy-duty hybrid business case improves substantially for fuel prices above $3 per gallon,” he said. “Natural gas already has a substantial price advantage, while other alternative fuels show benefits. In addition, electric trucks are gaining interest as a hedge against fuel price fluctuations because electricity prices are much more stable.”
Commercial plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) work trucks show potential because their extra energy storage boosts idle time reduction during work site engine-off operations, Van Amburg noted. “Diesel fuel costs are causing a rapid review of the potential business case for these vehicles,” he said, “but energy storage costs are still high. Still, there is growing interest from fleets if fuel savings are not derived entirely from driving cycles.”
Van Amburg was referring to plug-in body systems from various manufacturers that allow stored energy to be used to operate aerials and tools at the work site. These solutions are generally separate from and do not change conventional drivelines, but still offer potential fuel saving and idle reduction benefits.
Dual-mode hybrids, which are already in use in transit operations, are one technology under development for trucks. In particular, Van Amburg pointed out that Meritor and Navistar are testing an advanced dual-mode hybrid design that provides electric drive capability at lower speeds and a blended power mode at higher speeds. Eaton is also testing a dual-mode hybrid that offers a zero emissions short-range, low-speed driving capability.
Also noted in Van Amburg’s presentation were the expanding choices for natural gas engines in medium- and heavy-duty trucks that showcase the re-emergence of natural gas as a viable fuel option.
“Electric trucks are a key emerging segment,” Van Amburg pointed out. As a result, CALSTART has created an e-truck task force of users and manufacturers to identify market and technology barriers, such as charging issues. Fleet needs are also on the group’s agenda, including determining best duty cycles such as those for high-idle work site applications of PTO-driven components and aerial devices, and quantifying benefits to support and validate a business case for this technology.
“The foundation has been set,” Van Amburg stated. “Advanced low-emitting, high-efficiency technologies are now emerging and are in early production. We are entering a 20-year period of significant technology and fuel change and pressures for greater efficiency and reduced emissions, but a support framework is needed to help industry meet challenges.”
Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles
Program Manager, PHEV Medium-Duty Truck, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)
A PHEV, Kosowski explained, is similar to a hybrid truck except that it incorporates an extra 10- to 30-kWh battery that can be charged through an interface to the electrical grid. This stored energy improves fuel economy and reduces emissions by powering functions normally handled by the engine.
Kosowski defined three typical parallel hybrid architectures that can be used in PHEVs:
Pre-transmission hybrids include a pump, battery, inverter and charger. “This is the most capable architecture because the motor and engine can drive the wheels through the transmission, and the motor can drive the PTO without using the engine by opening the clutch,” Kosowski said. “This is a higher cost solution because the transmission needs to be modified.”
Post-transmission hybrids use a battery. “This is a less expensive solution because the transmission does not need to be modified,” Kosowski said. “While the motor in this architecture can drive the PTO without using the engine, the motor can only be operated at transmission output speed.”
PTO-driven hybrids incorporate a pump, battery, inverter and charger. “In this architecture the motor can drive wheels through the transmission and can drive the PTO without the engine,” Kosowski said. “This is also less expensive because the transmission does not need to be modified; however, the motor and engine torque operate in parallel in this solution.”
Fleet readiness for a PHEV charging infrastructure was also on Kosowski’s agenda. For fleets developing charging solutions, he referenced the National Electrical Code (NEC) Article 625, which describes charging safety issues, and Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Recommended Practice J1772 for charging systems.
PHEV charging systems were detailed by Kosowski as well. A Level 1 AC 120-volt charging system uses a cord set with one end that has a standard plug arrangement that can interface to any electric vehicle as defined by SAE J1772 . The other end is plugged into a typical 120-volt AC outlet. The cord set is usually stored in the vehicle. Charge time is dependent on the vehicle’s battery size and can range from eight to 20 hours.
Level 2 AC 208/240V charging systems also use a cord set with one end that has a standard plug arrangement that can interface to any electric vehicle as defined by SAE J1772, the same as the 120V interface. The other end is permanently connected to the electrical grid.
“It is recommended that Level 1 charging have a dedicated circuit as chargers are sized to use the maximum capacity of the circuit [80 percent of breaker rating],” Kosowski explained. “In particular, a Level 1, 15-amp charger loads the circuit at 12 amps and a Level 1, 20-amp charger loads the circuit at 16 amps. Breaker tripping is likely if other loads share the circuit. Level 2 chargers require a dedicated circuit [per NEC] with controlled connect/disconnect [high current/voltage] capability, and for safety the connection to the premise wiring is not cycled, meaning the connection is made and broken at the vehicle.”
Kosowski also discussed the EPRI/TVA Smart Station project located at EPRI’s Knoxville lab. The facility, he related, is helping develop best practices and provide public education, and will expand on lessons learned in future site designs.
EPRI serves as the hub of collaboration in this effort through its Infrastructure Working Council, which brings stakeholders together four times a year and works to bridge the gap between utilities, connector and charging system manufacturers, and automakers, among others.
“Our vision,” Kosowski concluded, “is that by 2015 all plug-in vehicles can communicate to the smart grid where charging is intelligently controlled. Smart charging is lower in cost and more convenient for vehicle operators, and can minimize the impact on the electric infrastructure.”
Acquisition and Funding Strategies
Vehicle Technologies Deployment Manager, National Clean Cities Program, U.S. Department of Energy
“The primary focus of DOE’s Clean Cities Vehicle Technology Program is to achieve petroleum reduction by implementing programs that follow research and development,” Smith stated. “Since 1993, we have helped cut petroleum use by nearly 3 billion gallons annually. Currently, there are over 700,000 alternative fuel vehicles on the road and 7,000 alternative fueling stations, more than 70 percent of them influenced by Clean Cities programs.”
Clean Cities includes more than 100 coalitions serving 78 percent of the U.S. population. The coalitions involve thousands of stakeholders from businesses, city and state governments, transportation industry, community organizations and fuel providers.
Deployment efforts that Smith outlined include local community and coalition partnerships with direct support for Clean Cities activities, public events, training for coalitions and community leaders, local project coordination and strategic planning assistance. In addition, the DOE program provides consumer information, outreach and education in the form of fuel economy guides, the Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center, other Web-based consumer tools, publications, workshops, and targeted workforce and end-user education.
Technical and problem-solving assistance is available from Clean Cities as well, covering things such as addressing market barriers, safety issues and technology shortfalls. The program also offers financial assistance by providing funding in the form of competitive awards to facilitate infrastructure development and vehicle deployment projects.
Clean Cities, Smith pointed out, is working with the National Clean Fleets Partnership “to deploy over 10,000 alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles. Also,” he added, “over 1,250 alternative fuel and electric vehicle charging stations will be built or upgraded. An enhanced locator and mapping service for more than 500 new electric vehicle charging locations is planned, and we are working on funding opportunities for all of our programs.
“The goal,” Smith concluded, “is to reduce petroleum use by 40 million gallons per year in the near term and by 2.5 billion gallons annually by 2020.”
Clean Cities: www.cleancities.energy.gov
Federal Grants: www.grants.gov
Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center: www.afdc.energy.gov
Fuel Economy Guide: www.fueleconomy.gov
Clean Cities Coalition Contacts: www.afdc.energy.gov/cleancities/progs/coordinators.php
Electric Power Research Institute: www.epri.com
CALSTART (including the Hybrid Truck Users Forum): www.calstart.org
During the 2011 Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference, fleet managers related their experience with hybrid vehicles.
Director, Fleet Design and Technical Support
Duke Energy’s 2009 Freightliner hybrid trucks are still receiving good acceptance reports from operators, Allison noted. “Savings are still driven by application and job needs,” he said. “After approximately 40,000 miles of service, the most closely matched hybrids compared to baseline units have exhibited 25 percent better fuel economy, 23 percent less overall engine run time and 41 percent less overall engine idle time. For the hybrids, ePTO use is 76 percent of overall PTO operation time.”
Glenn Martin, CAFM
Fleet Maintenance Manager
Florida Power & Light
The hybrid portion of the Florida Power & Light fleet has increased from 24 units in 2006 to 364 units in 2010, Martin related. “Overall, the data indicates that hybrid vehicles are meeting or exceeding expectations on all fronts,” he said.
“With the hybrids in our fleet, fuel used from 2006 to 2010 decreased by 10 percent while our vehicle count increased by 136 units or 6 percent,” Martin reported. “In the same time period, annual miles driven increased by 2.3 percent and average MPG increased by 14 percent. In addition, maintenance costs for the hybrid fleet are trending significantly under the nonhybrid portion of the fleet and hybrid vehicle availability is trending above the nonhybrids.”
Director, Transportation Services
Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)
With more than 2,600 alternative fuel vehicles, PG&E operates one of the largest high-efficiency vehicle utility fleets in the nation. Included are natural gas (CNG or LNG), biodiesel (B-20), electric (on- and off-road) and hybrid (HEV and PHEV) units.
Challenges do remain on several fronts, however. “Employee familiarity with the operation of and acceptance of the equipment are concerns,” Meisel said, “along with the availability of qualified technicians. For electric vehicles in particular, the charging infrastructure, including the speed of charging and the volume and location of charging stations, is still a challenge.
“The return on investment for some of these technologies is better than for others,” Meisel continued, “and performance varies significantly based on make, model and manufacturer, even among like technologies. Parts and service availability is also an ongoing challenge.”
Meisel noted that in some cases technology development is moving so fast that some regulatory agencies are behind, especially when it comes to incentives. “Government incentives are nice,” he stated, “but they haven’t changed the way we buy vehicles. Financing also continues to be a challenge.
“Fleets need to create a self-sustaining model,” Meisel added. “They need to understand the technology and its application, and conduct a full cost-benefit analysis. Determining accurate costs, useful service life and residual values are among the open issues.
“Greening the fleet makes sense from an environmental and economic standpoint,” Meisel concluded, “but there will not be any one fuel or technology that meets all of our needs. At PG&E we will be evaluating all the technology options as they become available.”
About the Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference
Organized and produced by a highly dedicated group of fleet managers, the Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference (EUFMC) features technical and management presentations, and an equipment exhibit built on the guidance of fleet professionals.
“This group of volunteers works for many months to determine what subjects will have the greatest interest to the fleet and supplier community,” said George Survant, director of fleet services at Florida Power & Light and the current EUFMC president. “Utility fleet managers have had to address a greater rate of change in the past decade than in the previous 40 years. EUFMC sorts through this large array of issues to help the fleet community and the entire industry focus on critical items, and make a difference by driving costs in a direction that is acceptable to customers and shareholders.”
The 59th EUFMC will be held June 3-6, 2012, at the Williamsburg Lodge and Conference Center in Williamsburg, Va. For more information, visit www.eufmc.com.
Altec Industries has announced plans for a green-focused facility in Dixon, Calif. The new plant will feature sustainable construction and exceed Title 24 energy and lighting codes. In addition, Altec plans to use the facility to expand the development and production of its Green Fleet utility vehicle product line.
Altec received guidance and support on the development of the new green-focused facility from two of its customers – Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and Southern California Edison. In addition, PG&E and Altec are partnering to develop innovative, technologically advanced Green Fleet utility vehicles, which will be produced at the new facility.
“Altec is committed to sustainable solutions,” said Lee Styslinger III, Altec chairman and CEO. “That commitment to sustainability is reflected not only in the products we build, but also in the facilities where we build them.”
Visit www.altec.com for more information.