The number of owners and operators of Navistar International Corp.’s hybrid-powered commercial vehicles is growing as hybrid trucks and buses become more and more attractive to businesses looking to “green” their fleets and improve fuel economy.
In fact, the popularity of these hybrid vehicles has helped Navistar become the first original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to accumulate more than 5 million real-world miles in the hands of customers driving hybrid-powered International trucks and IC Bus brand school and commercial buses, the company reported in a news release.
“With a wide range of hybrid trucks and buses, we continue to be a leader in providing energy-saving, environmentally friendly transportation solutions,” said Jack Allen, president, Navistar’s North American truck group. “By developing clean vehicle technologies that reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, we’re able to deliver significant savings to the customer’s bottom line and, at the same time, help them reduce their overall carbon footprint.”
In less than two years, Navistar has established itself as a leader in hybrid technology. In November 2007, Navistar launched the Class 6 medium-duty International DuraStar Hybrid, becoming the first OEM to enter assembly-line production of hybrid commercial trucks.
Building on the success of that platform, Navistar expanded its hybrid product portfolio in October 2008 with the Class 7 International DuraStar Hybrid Tractor, targeting general freight haulers and food/beverage distributors with diminishing loads. This past March, Navistar introduced the Class 7 severe service International WorkStar Hybrid 4×4, the industry’s first hybrid four-wheel-drive commercial truck.
Depending on the specific application and other conditions, International hybrid trucks can deliver up to 40% fuel savings in stop-and-go driving and pick-up/delivery operations. Beyond the fuel savings potential, the hybrid trucks produce zero emissions when auxiliary equipment (like an overhead utility bucket) operates solely on the truck’s hybrid battery power.
“The continued success of these trucks on the road demonstrates not only the reliability of hybrid technology, but also the potential for significant fuel savings and emissions improvement within real-world applications,” said George Survant, director of fleet services for Florida Power and Light and chairperson of the Hybrid Truck Users Forum (HTUF) Working Group.
Two weeks ago, President Obama traveled to Navistar’s Wakarusa, Ind., manufacturing facility to announce the award of a $39 million federal grant to develop and build all-electric delivery vehicles. Through this U.S. Department of Energy grant, Navistar plans to build 400 all-electric vehicles in 2010 and expects to be producing several thousand vehicles annually within a couple of years. This zero emissions all-electric delivery vehicle would primarily be used by drivers for local deliveries where stop-and-go driving would otherwise consume a large amount of fuel.
In addition to its line-up of hybrid trucks and the potential for all-electric delivery trucks, Navistar affiliate, IC Bus, offers a comprehensive portfolio of hybrid-electric school and commercial buses.
Editor’s Note: This story was written by Bob Difley and appeared on www.RV.net.
Johnson Controls, a leading producer of lead-acid batteries for passenger cars and trucks, including batteries for hybrid vehicles, commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct a survey on Americans’ attitudes toward buying a hybrid vehicle. The online survey contacted 2,309 adults 18 years and older with the results weighted to reflect the composition of the U.S. population for gender, education, income, ethnicity, and propensity to go online. The survey was conducted between March 9 and 11 and revealed some interesting results.
Here are some of them.
- 84% think government should support the advancement of battery technology in this country.
- 90% of U.S. adults are open to choosing a hybrid if they were in the market for a new vehicle.
- 80% think financial barriers such as purchase price and/or insufficient cost savings prevent people from buying a hybrid car.
- 84% see incentives and tax credits as an effective way to encourage consumers to purchase hybrid cars.
Highlighting the need for technological improvement, cost reductions and greater public education, the survey also revealed the following when asking respondents why they thought people were reluctant to buy hybrids:
- 49% of adults cite reluctance to sacrifice features such as size and horsepower
- 42% express concerns that hybrids might mean inferior performance, lack of speed, or a poor driving experience.
- 47% believe lack of understanding about hybrids in general prevents people from buying them
- 59% have no idea what the distinctions are between different types of hybrids.
It appears by this survey that public attitudes on hybrids in America have changed dramatically, though it is not yet reflected in sales. And maybe concerted efforts toward public education on hybrids would be a good idea for hybrid manufacturers.
As for plug-in electric vehicles (EVs), at least three Chinese car companies are planning on introducing EVs in the U.S. in the next year or two. And Shai Agassi introduced his new battery-changing robot in Japan, which can remove and replace an EV battery in one minute – less time than it takes to fill a gas tank-and the driver stays in the car the whole time.
If you think of these battery changing stations scattered along major freeways and highways, the current limited range and battery-charging times of EVs may not be a big issue. After all, 98% of Americans drive less than 100 miles a day, and can recharge their EV overnight. So these battery-changing stations will be necessary only on longer drives. Now translate that to driving an EV RV across country, locating these battery stations for quick replacement taking less time than filling the gas tank.
Is it far-fetched, or is it far-sighted?