UPS to Purchase Hydraulic Hybrid Vehicles

As part of a public-private partnership to increase the commercial availability and use of alternative fuel vehicles, UPS on Oct. 27 announced its purchase of seven hydraulic hybrid vehicles, which promise dramatic fuel savings and environmental benefits.

The technology, originally developed in a federal laboratory of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, stores energy by compressing hydraulic fluid under pressure in a large chamber. UPS was the only company in its industry asked to road-test the technology two years ago and now becomes the first delivery company to place an order for hydraulic hybrid vehicles (HHV).

"There is no question that hydraulic hybrids, although little known to the public, are ready for prime time use on the streets of America," said David Abney, UPS's chief operating officer. "We are not declaring hydraulic hybrids a panacea for our energy woes, but this technology certainly is as promising as anything we've seen to date."

Disclosing the results of its road testing on Detroit routes for the first time, UPS and EPA said the prototype vehicle had achieved a 45-to-50 percent improvement in fuel economy compared to conventional diesel delivery trucks. UPS believes similar fuel economy improvements and a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide are achievable in daily, real-world use. EPA believes the technology can perform equally well in other applications such as shuttle and transit buses and refuse pick-up trucks.

UPS will deploy the first two of the new HHVs in Minneapolis during the first quarter of 2009. Eaton Corp., which helped develop and refine the vehicle's hydraulic hybrid power system, will monitor the vehicle's fuel economy performance and emissions in the Minneapolis area. The additional five HHVs will be deployed later in 2009 and early 2010.

With a diesel "series" hydraulic hybrid of the type being purchased by UPS, a high-efficiency diesel engine is combined with a unique hydraulic propulsion system, replacing the conventional drivetrain and transmission. The vehicle uses hydraulic pumps and hydraulic storage tanks to capture and store energy, similar to what is done with electric motors and batteries in a hybrid electric vehicle. In this case, the diesel engine is used to periodically recharge pressure in the hydraulic propulsion system. Fuel economy is increased in three ways: vehicle braking energy is recovered that normally is wasted; the engine is operated more efficiently, and the engine can be shut off when stopped or decelerating.

EPA estimates that, when manufactured in high volume, the added costs of the hybrid components can be recouped in less than three years through lower fuel and brake maintenance costs.

Eaton began working with EPA in October 2001 under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement involving hydraulic hybrid systems and components. As part of Eaton's role in designing and developing hybrid technologies, the company's engineers were co-located at EPA's Ann Arbor facility. Eaton also earned a number of hybrid power system patents and continues to work on a number of other hybrid vehicles initiatives with UPS and others.

"The diesel hydraulic hybrid vehicle has the potential to offer our truck customers something very unique -- performance and reduced emissions with dramatic improvements in fuel economy," said Steve Guillaume, Navistar general manager, Medium Trucks.

UPS's current "green fleet" totals more than 1,600 low-carbon vehicles, including all-electric, hybrid electric, compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas, and propane-powered trucks.

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