May 2006


Autocar debuts fuel-efficient hybrid waste truck
by David J. Fournier, Jr.

Picture this: a refuse truck that accelerates faster than most diesels on the market, stops without mechanical brakes, has no traditional transmission to repair, and is 30-50% more fuel efficient than the average truck. Sound too good to be true? It is, but not for much longer. On April 5th, at Waste Expo, Autocar unveiled its brand new E³ hybrid drive waste truck. Still undergoing testing, the E³ will not be available until sometime around Waste Expo 2007. However, the promise shown by the Alpha and Beta test trucks already has people vying to be first on the growing list of those who have to have them.

The E³ incorporates the RunWise drive system developed through a partnership with Parker Hannifin. The DriveWise system is a hydraulic hybrid system that has no traditional transmission and instead uses a series of hydraulic pumps to accelerate and stop the truck. Jo Theart, group project leader, revealed that the E³ is run by hydraulic pumps, a primary pump connected to the engine that generates fluid pressure which feeds secondary pumps connected to the rear axle to drive the wheels. When the truck is moving under a certain speed, this hydraulic pressure can be used to bring the truck to a stop without using the mechanical brakes, greatly reducing brake wear and tear. That same pressure can then be captured and re-used to help accelerate the truck to its next stop faster than most trucks on the market today. In fact, the E³ realizes an average of approximately 26% acceleration improvement over similar diesel trucks. At 600-800 stops a day, which is the average route, stopping without brakes and moving fast enough to shave a second or two off of each stop adds up to big time and money savings.

Neat tricks aside, this hybrid does one other thing well. It saves on fuel costs. The hydraulic system contributes to an average fuel economy improvement of 30-50% over standard diesel refuse trucks. Of course, the fuel savings depends on the application. According to Tom Vatter, vice president of sales and marketing, “Fuel savings is route specific. The more stop and go the route, the more efficient the E³ becomes.” In the past, hydraulic hybrids lost any stop and go benefit once they hit 40 mph at which the systems could not run efficiently. However, at 40 mph and above, the E³ bypasses its hydraulic system and becomes a regular diesel truck, avoiding wasting the benefits gained in the stop and go portion of the route. All of this means that the E³ has much lower emissions and will pass the most rigid environmental regulations.

However, all of this special equipment will of course require special maintenance and come with a special price tag. There is no specific price yet, but according to Tom, the E³ will cost significantly more than a traditional diesel truck. Tom also says that despite the additional cost, the E³ will still have a quicker than average return on investment. He estimates that the E³ will pay for itself in 2 to 3 years. Considering that the truck is built to run for 8 to 10 years, that’s quite a few years of profit left over. The maintenance aspect of the truck will also be different. Autocar will have a scheduled maintenance program, but should something break, it may be hard to find a quick fix for the E³.


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