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Pedernales Electric Cooperative

When you have upward of 200,000 members to make happy, there’s more than a little pressure on any fleet manager to make smart and effective decisions. For Jim Petty, fleet supervisor for Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) – the country’s largest – the recent purchase of a Kenworth T370 hybrid truck is turning out to be the right choice.

“Not only will we be saving up to 50 percent in our fuel bills, but we’re doing something positive for our workers and the environment when it comes to emissions,” said Petty. “We expect the Kenworth hybrid to pay for the cost difference against a standard T370 in a short period. After that, we’ll save substantial money during our eight- to 10-year trade cycle. And we’ll be doing our part to be green.”

Headquartered in Johnson City, Texas, 50 miles west of Austin, PEC fields a fleet that is used to repair and maintain power lines in an 8,100-square-mile service territory. The new Kenworth T370 hybrid purchased through Kenworth of South Texas joins 75 other Class 6 to 8 trucks with aerial devices in the utility’s fleet. Those other trucks, which include Kenworth T800s, are equipped with PTO-driven 45- to 95-foot extendable buckets.

With the Kenworth hybrid, the bucket arm is extended and manipulated with a PTO powered by the hybrid’s battery pack. “In our other trucks, the engine always idles to run the PTO,” Petty noted. “We average between 3,000 to 5,000 hours of idling just to operate the PTO during the life cycle of the aerial device.

“Since the T370’s engine will only come on periodically to charge the batteries, we’ll save thousands of dollars in idling costs alone when we’re working on lines,” Petty continued. “We’ll also get upward of 25 to 30 percent better fuel economy since we drive in many urban areas, especially around Austin. What’s more, our crew on the ground won’t be exposed to diesel exhaust and we’ll have a quieter operation.”

The Kenworth T370 hybrid is powered by a 300-HP PACCAR PX-6 engine, and features an integral transmission-mounted motor/generator, a frame-mounted 340-volt battery pack and a dedicated power management system. Electricity that is generated through regenerative braking is stored and used for acceleration, assisting the diesel engine.

Kenworth offers a high-resolution, full-color in-dash display to monitor the hybrid system. As the power requirements for different driving conditions change, the screen constantly updates the system status, allowing the driver to optimize the performance of the hybrid system.

According to Petty, the electric co-op has been running hybrid cars for years with good success. “It’s a natural extension for us to move to bigger vehicles and all of us were excited to put the Kenworth into operation,” he said. “We placed the truck into service at our Austin service location and our drivers can’t wait to start driving it. During test drives, they commented about the smooth and fast initial acceleration, thanks to using battery power.”

Petty said there was no trepidation in putting the new hybrid technology to work. “Kenworth of South Texas and Eaton, the manufacturer of the hybrid system, did a great job during a training session to show our drivers and technicians exactly how the hybrid worked, and how it was different from conventional trucks. It gave us confidence going forward that we definitely made the right choice.”

About Pedernales Electric Cooperative
With a long history of serving its customers – called members because they are also owners – Pedernales Electric Cooperative was started in 1938 with the help of then-Congressman Lyndon Johnson. “He helped lobby the Roosevelt administration to secure a loan to build nearly 1,800 miles of electric lines through the Texas Hill Country,” explained Jim Petty, fleet supervisor. “It was the first power to be brought to the area for residents, who, until that time, relied on kerosene lamps for illumination.”

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