Trucks Earn Their “Green” Stripes

When one thinks of hybrid or electric vehicles, one tends to think of cars; big trucks are seldom even considered. Industry insiders, however, know that trucks are not only rapidly getting greener, but that advancements in environmentally-friendly trucks will have significant knock-on effects for the greening of private vehicles. For instance, the more eco-friendly trucks in use, the cheaper eco-friendly cars will be as components are in more demand.

When it comes to “green” medium- and heavy-duty trucks, US-based Peterbilt leads the way. The company has won awards for its ability to produce clean, fuel-efficient long-haul vehicles. Peterbilt has built its reputation on its liquid and compressed natural gas fuel platforms (LNG and CNG respectively). The company doesn’t only focus on alternative fuels; its whole approach is environmentally driven, for instance, eco-friendly design principles extend to the quantity of raw materials required, type and recyclability of materials and energy consumption during manufacturing, use and ease of recycling. It also seeks to continuously develop fuel cell technology, electrical powered systems, waste heat recovery and ultra-capacitor starting modules.

Many of Peterbilt’s vehicles have received recognition from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) SmartWay Programme, which sets certain “green” specifications for Class 8 long-haul tractors and trailers. Its vehicles that have been deemed SmartWay compliant are between 10 and 20 per cent more fuel efficient than fossil-fuel powered trucks, and emit less carbon and other air pollutants.

Eaton manufactures a diverse range of industrial products; it does not make trucks but it does produce hybrid power systems that make trucks more environmentally friendly. The company has had many successes, among the most recent of which include supplying the hybrid power technology which made the Mercedez-Benz BlueTec® Atego Hybrid such a hit at the International Motor Show (IAA) Commercial Vehicles in Hanover. The Mercedes-Benz Atego range was named 2011 Truck of the Year and the hybrid was said to “pave the way for alternative drive systems”. It also has the potential to slice fuel consumption and carbon emissions by as much as 15 per cent. Further more, it was the first hybrid truck in Europe to gain European Type Approval.

The pickup truck is ubiquitous in the US of A. It’s essential to farmers, towing companies, construction crews and makes a great family vehicle. These days it’s also pretty green. There are a number of hybrid, alternative fuel and electric models out there to appeal to those who need their vehicles to be tough and rugged.

There is the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid, which is almost identical to the GMC Sierra Hybrid. Both have proven their ability to tow at least a 5.4 tonne powerboat and trailer. Their hybrid systems can also save drivers 140 gallons (530 litres) of fuel per year. Fuel-saving features include 18-inch wheels to save weight, and the standard tonneau cover for better aerodynamics.

In terms of alternative-fuel pickups there are the Chevrolet Silverado E85 and the Ford F-150 E85, which run on an 85 per cent blend of ethanol, a renewable fuel made from corn. The benefits of E85 fuel include increased torque and horsepower and reduced greenhouse gases.

There is only one truly competitive light-weight electric truck on America’s roads: the Ford Transit Connect Electric. The vehicle is a delivery-style truck and has won Truck of the Year. It is well suited for commercial fleets and small businesses with short-distance travel requirements in cities and that have a central location in which to recharge.

No matter how you look at it, the future for trucking is definitely green.

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