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Throughout The Car Industry

Batteries Not Included. . . But Should They?

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On: Wed, Apr 14, 2010 at 12:57PM | By: Clay Ritchings

Batteries Not Included. . . But Should They?

Plug-in hybrid, all-electric or fuel cell? Companies are hedging their bets on what will emerge as the next generation engine technology of choice; now it seems another alternative approach could well be set to enter the mix. Electric hybrids have a tremendous amount of momentum right now; but what if a technology didn’t rely on expensive, heavy, bulky battery technologies that aren’t really ready for prime time, but instead used a time-tested energy storage method? What is this new wonderful technology? It’s Hydraulics! Hydraulic hybrid vehicles aren’t exactly news to everyone. Operators of truck fleets have recently taken an interest and have been evaluating hydraulic hybrids. Hydraulic power trains would add only about 10 percent to the vehicle cost, but if you take a look at parallel hybrids, like the Prius, you would add hundreds of pounds and thousands of dollars to the vehicle.

Could Hydraulic Hybrid Technology Rival Batteries? What if I told you that you can get 50% better fuel economy and 40% lower emissions on your next car, would it interest you now? Well, it interested the shipping giant UPS enough to put some in their fleet. UPS has been developing what it calls its “green fleet” over the last several years and currently is putting this new idea to the test. The UPS alternative fuel fleet employs multiple technologies, including compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, propane, electricity, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and hydraulic hybrid technology. Since 2000, the alternative-fuel fleet has logged more than 165 million miles.

With the hydraulic hybrid the UPS vehicles conventional drive train was replaced with a hydraulic system that stores energy by compressing gas in a chamber using hydraulic fluid. It works in much the same way that a hybrid electric car does: a small, efficient motor generates power, which is stored for later use. The difference is the way energy is stored; in a hydraulic hybrid is in a pressurized chamber rather than in a battery.

If this works out for UPS, could you imagine the savings on fuel alone for a company that logs millions and millions of miles a year? Do the math. This is another example of a company testing new waters and furthering the development of technologies that will solidify the company's future and advance new technologies.

Need a Yard Dog? No, not that mangy mutt that’s ready to rip your throat out at junkyards, but a vehicle designed for off-highway container or semi-trailer spotting applications.
Well, take a look at the XE20, which is based on the Xspotter by Autocar.
Built by Balqon Corporation in California, the XE20 is doing its part to help terminal managers move cargo and reduce their contribution to the smog. The Port of Los Angeles has put into service the world’s first all-electric port truck, a behemoth capable of hauling 60,000 lbs. of freight.

The Balqon XE20 has a range of 50 miles with a 6-8 hour standard full charge, which is ideal for a vehicle that makes short trips and sits idle for long periods of time between uses. Balqon also offers a one-hour quick charge that brings the lithium-ion batteries up to 60% of capacity. You want power? Well, the XE20 is powered by a liquid-cooled 240 kW AC induction motor; this tractor is said to provide the most low-end torque in its class and will be perfect for the off-highway applications.

The truck's deployment is part of the smoggy Port of Los Angeles’ efforts to comply with California’s strict air quality regulations. Now, instead of a bunch of idling diesel trucks, there is a bevy of locally built electric port trucks. Now the Port of Los Angeles did not put all its “Eggs In One Basket”; they are also exploring the more applicable hydrogen fuel cell technology with the purchase and evaluation of fuel cell hybrid-electric trucks. They are testing these heavy-duty big rigs for short and medium distance cargo hauling. Though most people will never even notice these trucks, their impact on the environment is unmistakable. And even more important is the groundwork that it is laying for the next generation hydrogen-electric vehicles that will inevitably be part of our lives in the future.

It's not one technology versus another, because whatever shakes out of this whole wave of change has to be good. If a technology succeeds or fails it really does not matter, because we are learning from each and every one of them and applying it to the next idea. Car enthusiasts rejoice in the fact that as we get closer to non-fossil fuel vehicles, it practically insures the availability of good old gasoline for our muscle cars in the future. I, for one, am excited and look forward to what comes next.

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James Roberts | 4:49PM (Wed, Apr 14, 2010)

Obama say drill baby drill so we have a few more months before we run out of fuel... Ha Ha ha


smosley | 4:58PM (Wed, Apr 14, 2010)

Sounds like a lot of hot air!


RoadKill | 7:56PM (Wed, Apr 14, 2010)

Hydraulic Hybrid Technology --what do you need? pumps hoses tanks valves...sounds like it should be cheap since we already have that stuff in abundance....looks like the most costly element will be the rear end...

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