On March 19, President Barack Obama previewed an innovative plug-in hybrid electric utility truck with a power system developed by diversified industrial manufacturer Eaton Corp. and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). The president visited the Electric Vehicle Technical Center of Southern California Edison to view an array of advanced technology vehicles. 

The plug-in hybrid truck, which is estimated to deliver fuel economy improvements of up to 70 percent compared to a conventionally powered truck, with corresponding reductions in harmful emissions, was developed for Southern California Edison. Eaton is in the early test phase of the plug-in system and is considering it as a potential future offering. 

The plug-in hybrid truck is the first of five "boom and bucket" trucks based on a Ford F-550 chassis that will be provided by Eaton, EPRI and Ford to public and private utility fleets in the United States for use and evaluation. In addition to fuel and emissions savings while the truck is on the road, additional energy savings are available by utilizing the electric side of the system to power the ancillary systems and tools when the truck is stopped at a work site. 

The entire system can be recharged by plugging it into a standard 120- or 240-volt electrical outlet. Once charged, the battery energy can be used to supplement engine power and also provide power to operate auxiliaries, such as the utility truck boom. 

Benefits of the existing Eaton hybrid systems include fuel economy improvement ranging from 30 to 60 percent, with similar percentages in emission reductions, extended brake life and idle time reductions of up to 87 percent during work site operations. 

Eaton announced it has established a program to assist diesel truck fleet owners in applying for the $156 million in grants for diesel hybrid trucks that are available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Under the Environmental Protection Agency's related Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA), funding is available through ARRA for up to 25 percent of the cost of a new hybrid truck. An existing diesel truck has to be taken out of service for each new hybrid truck that is purchased. Fleets and equipment eligible for the DERA funding include buses, medium- or heavy-duty trucks, marine engines and locomotives.