When somebody says “hybrid vehicle”, most of us think of cars. Some engineers are thinking bigger. Bigger as in trucks. Trucks that get great gas mileage. Today, on Engineering Works!
This approach to fuel efficiency turns the hybrid idea upside down. Hybrid cars usually run on fuel-efficient gasoline engines with help from battery-powered electric motors. And it works pretty well. But a new hybrid system aimed at mid-sized commercial trucks does it differently.
This hybrid runs primarily on an electric motor with help from a generator that keeps its batteries topped up as it goes. In this drive system, the engine powering the generator can be smaller than the most fuel-efficient conventional engine because it doesn’t have to move the loaded truck from a stop or up hills. All it has to do is spin the generator so the battery is charged.
Sophisticated computer software controls the electric motor speed and shifts the transmission so the truck hauls its load just like its gas-powered counterparts.
Engineers at the Silicon Valley company that developed the new system say fuel-saving efforts aimed at mid-sized commercial trucks will actually pay off bigger than trying to save gas with more efficient cars. That’s because mid-sized commercial trucks – think UPS truck – drive more miles and use a lot more fuel than cars. And there are more than two-million of them on the road.
Our truck still gets us home the old-fashioned way. See you next time.
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Start the discussion: Sometimes the discussion of fuel efficiency gets focused pretty tightly, as if cars were the only vehicles that could benefit from better fuel efficiency. Maybe we need to look at the problem more broadly.