A new version of Odyne System’s plug-in hybrid propulsion package for heavy-duty utility bucket trucks significantly reduces both the weight and cost of the overall unit, potentially helping improve its payback calculation position in the market.

During a press conference at the 2012 National Truck Equipment Assn. (NTEA) show in Indianapolis, Matt Jarmuz, Odyne’s director of sales, noted that company recently switched to using a lithium-ion battery pack for its technology package, versus far heavier and shorter lifecycle lead-acid batteries previously used to power the product.

As a result of using lighter yet more powerful lithium-ion batteries, Jarmuz told Fleet Owner that the company reduced the total weight of its hybrid package from 4,000 lbs. to 1,600 lbs., while cutting the cost of the entire system from near $100,000 down to approximately $50,000.

“That weight and cost reduction is helping us get closer to the five-year payback target we’re aiming at,” he explained. “We expect to achieve payback not just from a 50% reduction in fuel consumption due to less engine idling, but also through less maintenance for the engine resulting less hours of operation, longer oil drain intervals, etc.”

Odyne’s plug-in hybrid pack allows utility truck crews to operate the vehicle’s air conditioning and heating systems while the engine is off at the job site. The technology also provides “launch assist” to reduce engine loads during acceleration, climbing and turning. Odyne’s product also uses regenerative braking to help recharge the batteries during drive cycles, along with plug-in recharging capability to again reduce the need to operate the truck’s main engine.

Jarmuz noted that several utility fleets are now testing five trucks mounted its improved hybrid package mounted via grants from the U.S. Dept. of Energy, including: Consumers Energy of Michigan, the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy; Choptank Electric Cooperative in Maryland; NiSource, a utility in Northern Indiana;Pepco Holdings Inc., which serves about 1.9 million customers in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland and New Jersey; and NV Energy in Reno, NV.