Truck makers on leading edge

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Updated Dec 14, 2009

Paccar, Inc., maker of Peterbilt and Kenworth trucks, is singled out in the current edition of IndustryWeek magazine (story available here) for their achievements in the hybrid drivetrain space in commercial truck development and production. Both Peterbilt and Kenworth rolled out hybrids this year for pickup and delivery and regional haul, from Kenworth’s T370 Class 7 model to Peterbilt’s 367. Aside from a few hybrid SUVs that have been available in recent years, the story suggests, American auto manufacturers are well behind the commercial motor vehicle makers in delivering next-generation drivetrains for fuel- and emissions-conscious customers. The Chevy Volt, for instance, a plug-in hybrid model we blogged about a few weeks back, will not be available before 2010, while Kenworth and Pete hybrids are available today for certain applications and utilize similar technology in a much larger variety of configurations.

A nice case-study-type look at Coca-Cola Enterprises, a large bottler that bought and began road-testing 120 Kenworth T370 models in 2007, is included in the story. The bottler to date, IndustryWeek reports, has achieved “>a 32% improvement on fuel efficiency, a 30% to 35% reduction in emissions, and reduced maintenance costs” in stop-and-go driving, where hybrids make the most sense — energy normally wasted during braking is captured and utilized to power up the lithium ion battery packs that power the electric motor. Both Kenworth and Pete are beginning to market regional and long-haul hybrids, too, but if the medium-to-heavy-duty vocational market is any indication, the increased price of the vehicles will remain an obstacle for buyers. IndustryWeek says the hybrids cost about “$40,000 more than traditional diesels.”