One hundred years ago this month — March 7, 1912, to be exact — Longmont Power & Communications began serving the residents in the area of Longmont, CO. In 2011, that same utility started a foray into the world of hybrid vehicles with the delivery of four hybrid systems from Terex Utilities.

“I think it's interesting that we're looking at these future technologies in our 100th year,” says Deborah Cameron, customer services & marketing manager.

Located 37 mi. from Denver, Longmont has twice been named one of the top 100 places to live (2006, 2008) in the U.S. by Money magazine. The utility serves about 39,000 residents with 57 total pieces of equipment — from small service vehicles to large bucket trucks and trailers. It is a municipal utility, which means “our shareholders are our community,” says Joel Trotter, operations manager.

Trotter notes that the utility was not under any pressure to adopt hybrid technologies. “We're the lowest [utility] rate in the state,” he says. “We didn't have a real push to cut costs.”

“Fuel savings is obviously an initiative for us,” adds Bruce Maysilles, fleet manager, “but the environmental [impact] is important to us too.”

After reviewing and testing two separate systems, what Longmont settled on was the HyPower hybrid system from Terex. Using grant money totaling about $70,000 to offset some of the cost, Longmont ordered four systems: two on new vehicles and two to be retrofitted onto 2008 model-year bucket trucks (one a small service vehicle and one a streetlight truck). All four vehicles were delivered last year.

“We looked at a couple of different hybrid systems,” Maysilles explains, “but what appealed to us was [the HyPower system] was not married to the truck engine as other systems were.”

The HyPower system is designed specifically for the utility industry, says Terex. The system works on any gas or diesel chassis, the company says, and retrofits without any chassis redesign. It charges off a standard 110V, 15-amp outlet, allowing it to be plugged in at night. Maysilles says it takes about eight hours overnight to fully recharge the systems.

POWER WHEN NEEDED

If an operator is in the field and the HyPower system senses low voltage, it will automatically restart the engine for five minutes of runtime, sufficiently providing enough charge to the onboard batteries for 15 minutes of boom operation time, Terex says. Equipment running on the HyPower system seamlessly transitions from hybrid mode to standard gas or diesel power when a sensor indicates low power status so operators do not become stranded in a bucket.

As it is still early in the ownership cycle for Longmont, Trotter could not say what kind of savings the utility has achieved so far, but Terex says the system can achieve up to 7.5 gals. of diesel fuel savings per day, depending on duty cycle and boom usage.

“It depends on the task and movement of the vehicle,” Trotter says. “If our streetlight crew has a full list of tasks, the truck may kick into diesel mode [to operate the boom] near the end of the shift for an hour or two. But I don't think our service crews have had the experience” yet of running out of electric power.

“Common sense tells us if the diesel engine is not running, it's saving money,” Maysilles adds, noting that the utility's trucks could spend up to 80% of the day with the engine running while the vehicle remains stationary.

One of the vehicles equipped with the system is a derrick truck sporting a large auger for digging. Maysilles says when operating the auger itself, the vehicle uses power generated by the diesel engine, otherwise the power needed would sap all the stored electric power.

Trotter notes that the derrick truck was the first in the country delivered with the system, and the utility's large bucket truck was the first in the state of Colorado. As such, there have been a few operational issues to work through. “Once we got some of the bugs out of the hybrid systems, they've been pretty trouble-free,” Maysilles says.

And just as importantly for Longmont Power & Communications, the crews and public are raving about the vehicles.

“The crews like them. They're quieter, and they're not smelling diesel fumes all day long,” Trotter says, mentioning that the public response has been equally positive to the vehicles.