Eaton Corporation’s truck and electrical businesses will play a major role in producing 378 plug-in hybrid electric power vehicles, the largest commercial hybrid deployment to date in the U.S., thanks to a USD$45.4 million government grant. Eaton will also provide the electrical charging infrastructure for these vehicles.

In the utility truck version, the plug-in hybrid will be based on the Ford F550 chassis and have a total range of at least 300 miles (480km). It's expected that the system will provide fuel economy improvement of up to 70 percent when compared to a standard utility vehicle, with similar reductions in emissions and noise.

To ensure the system is plausible, vehicles will be able to be recharged by plugging into a standard 120V or 240V electrical outlet, and the trucks will be capable of powering auxiliary equipment and tools while at worksites.

The development and deployment of the plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) and accompanying charging infrastructure will take place over 18 months and vehicles will be evaluated over a two-year period.

Eaton will work with grant recipient South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and other affiliates, including the Electrical Power Research Institute (EPRI), Altec Industries, Compact Power Inc., Ford Motor Company and Southern California Edison, in the deployment of plug-in hybrid electric commercial vehicles to more than 50 utility and municipal fleets nationwide.

Eaton will work with EPRI to develop plug-in station technology for use by utilities and other customers across the country.

“This funding is an important milestone in the advancement of plug-in hybrid vehicles, and Eaton is pleased to be a recipient,” said Alexander M. Cutler, Eaton chairman and chief executive officer. “By providing our sustainable, energy-saving technologies to power the vehicles as well as the electrical infrastructure support to help keep them running, we believe we can provide Eaton customers with the technology they need to move plug-in hybrids to the next level.”

EPRI’s director of Electrical Transportation, Mark Duvall said: “The production and demonstration of this fleet of vehicles is a significant step in driving PHEV technology beyond the personal transportation platform to a daily work application. This project leverages Eaton's current hybrid electric system and builds upon nearly three years of ongoing work by Eaton and EPRI to develop PHEV technology for commercial vehicles."

Eaton says it has accumulated nearly 20 million road-tested miles (32 million kilometers) of service around the world in the production of hybrid power systems for trucks and buses. Eaton says it is the only company to offer hybrid electric as well as two hybrid hydraulic system technologies and the charging infrastructure for commercial and residential applications.

Customer list

Eaton says companies such as FedEx, UPS, Coca-Cola Enterprises, PepsiCo and Wal-Mart are using delivery vehicles with the company’s hybrid systems. Work trucks with Eaton hybrid power are also in service at numerous utility and telecom systems across North America, including Pepco, American Electric Power, Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, and Florida Power and Light.

The company says benefits of the existing Eaton system include fuel economy improvement ranging from 30-70 percent, with similar percentages in emission reductions.