Hybrids Hold Promise Over The Short-Haul

First commercial models may be available later this year.


"We support hybrid vehicles because they are more fuel-efficient, create less air pollution and owning one is an investment in restorative change," a company spokesperson says. "These innovations are good not only for the environment but also for business. We expect they will produce net savings of at least $494 million a year by 2020, and more in later years."

PepsiCo's Frito-Lay division is set to begin field testing two hybrid electric delivery vehicles in the fall. The company, which is based in Plano, TX, is working with state environmental officials in Texas on the pilots, which will involve class-2 International delivery vans with a maximum gross volume weight of 14,000 pounds. Eaton and Vancouver-based Azure Dynamics are providing the hybrid technology.

The pilot vehicles will be used on several of Frito-Lay's direct store delivery routes in Texas, according to Pete Silva, director of fleet procurement at PepsiCo.

"We'd like to learn about the fuel efficiency and economy and decreased emissions of hybrids to help us figure out what we want to do with our fleet down the line," says Silva.

Mark Federle, Azure's vice president of sales, says the program with Frito-Lay "represents another step in our path to commercializing hybrid drive technology into major truck fleets in North America. We are confident we can deliver a product which will be both economic and environmentally sound and that more businesses will follow."

As the positive results continue to unfold, Van Amburg expects to see widespread adoption of hybrid technology in the food industry over the next few years. He expects thousands of hybrid delivery vehicles to be on the road by 2010.

"There are several truck classes where it will work and fit into the food industry," he says, "like step-in vans and light- and medium-duty trucks.

"In the food industry, you can expect to see them in regional deliveries, store-to-store deliveries, direct-to-store deliveries and warehouse-to-warehouse movements," Van Amburg continues. "There is some real tremendous opportunity, probably not when you're doing long-hauls across the country, but certainly in local deliveries with a lot of stops."

Slow Starter

Hybrid technology has been in development in the trucking industry for a number of years, but has never really taken off until now. Part of the reason for the slow interest has been the higher cost of hybrid vehicles, but with high fuel prices and growing pressure to reduce diesel emissions, even the higher incremental costs of hybrid vehicles seem cheaper by comparison.

To help offset the higher sticker price, federal tax credits of up to $12,000 under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 are available for the purchase of new hybrid trucks that will achieve at least 50 percent better fuel economy than current trucks. In some parts of the country, companies that purchase hybrid trucks may also qualify for local, regional or state incentives.

"When you combine the high cost of diesel with potential maintenance savings and tax incentives, the business case for hybrid-electric vehicles is becoming more and more favorable," says Tom Cellitti, vice president and general manager of International's Medium Vehicle Center.

"Now is the time because of fuel costs and other issues," adds Van Amburg, who also notes that other technologies, such as auxiliary power units, are widely available to cut fuel consumption.

 

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