‘Here comes plug-in diesel!’

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So gushed the website and weekly update of the group Hybrid Owners of America about several automakers’ concept cars on display at the Geneva Auto Show last week. But in some sense, freight movement by plug-in powertrain is here, if not in the Class 8 realm, without even the diesel. E StarNavistar recently announced expanded service points for its eStar (pictured) Class 2c-3 all-electric truck, developed in partnership with Modec EV. The new service locations include Chicago International Trucks, Rechtien International Trucks (Florida market), Beltway Companies (Baltimore/Metro D.C. area) and DATTCO (New England area).

While clearly not aimed at the highway-haul market (payload capacity is in the neighborhood of 4,000 pounds), the eStar all-electric, medium-duty commercial vehicle is suitable for in-city delivery driving with a range of up to 100 miles per charge and can be plugged in and fully recharged within six to eight hours. It’s equipped with a quick-change cassette-type battery that can be swapped out in 20 minutes.

Furthermore, all the major truck makers — Kenworth, Peterbilt, Freightliner, Volvo, Mack — have been engaged some hybrid-production activity over the last several years. While governmental incentives for customers to buy the vehicles dried up in some locales with the recession, diesel prices of late you can expect to generate further activity, including interest from buyers as a result of the search for relief from fuel prices alone. Read John Baxter’s “Dawn of the hybrid” piece about the area from a couple years back in Truckers News‘ Green issue if you missed it, and colleague Jack Roberts, writing in the Equipment World magazine, looked at vocational hybrids in further depth in December last year.

And you can watch a promotional video from Navistar about the eStar at this page.