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Hybrid Trucks Are Here – Well Almost

A Volvo hybrid refuse truck based on its heavy-duty FE model

OK, so it’s a truck rather than a car, but it’s significant that Volvo has developed a hybrid system for its commercial vehicles. Four hybrid trucks will be used as refuse collection vehicles in London and Paris – but not until next autumn, which seems like a long way off.

The four hybrid refuse trucks are based on Volvo’s heavy-duty FE model. The hybrid trucks have a 7 litre diesel engine and an electric motor.

Volvo’s I-SAM (Integrated Starter Alternator Motor) hybrid pack features a starter motor, 120 kW electric propulsion motor, alternator and electronic control unit. The lithium-ion batteries are recharged whenever the brakes are applied and also via the diesel engine. There is also Volvo’s automated gearchanging system, I-Shift.

Each power source – the engine and electric motor – can be used separately or in combination with the other. With the electric motor being used when the vehicle is idling and for acceleration, fuel consumption can be cut by 15-20 per cent. With the addition of an extra battery featuring a plug-in recharging facility to power the ancillaries, the hybrid refuse trucks can cut a further 10-15 per cent off their fuel consumption figures, giving a total fuel reduction of up to 30 per cent, with CO2 emissions being significantly lower.

Electric power gives exhaust-free and almost totally silent operation, a major benefit for refuse trucks that often operate in dense urban areas early in the morning.

Since April 2008, several field tests have been taking place involving Volvo Trucks’ hybrid refuse trucks and the technology is fast approaching the commercialisation phase with series production due to start at the end of 2009. Volvo says that there is considerable interest in the market.

The four refuse trucks are pre-production vehicles that will be delivered by Volvo Trucks complete with all necessary bodywork. The vehicles will be leased by Veolia Propreté on a 24-month contract that covers service, maintenance and continuous software upgrades.

Volvo will monitor how the trucks are used and how they are perceived by the drivers to provide information for the ongoing development of their hybrid vehicles.