Kar adds that three “mega-trends” will drive adoption of hybrid powertrains among bus and commercial truck fleets: increased urbanization, more traffic congestion and higher energy costs.
“Don’t forget the impact of the 2014- 2018 greenhouse gas regulations for the heavy truck market, either,” he points out.
“To meet the fuel economy standards imposed by those rules, many truck makers are downsizing the diesel engine offered in their products. How will they make up for that ‘lost’ horsepower? In many cases [they will rely] on hybrid powertrains.”
Kar also stresses that hybrids “are not the solution for all fleets” and thus will only truly develop in certain niche markets such as short haul and pickup-and-delivery style truck operations, alongside transit buses.
“Hybrids are good for specific applications where there is a tremendous amount of ‘stop-and-go’ activity, which is common in operations along congested city streets,” he explains. “There won’t be demand for hybrids in the long-haul segment where trucks operate at steady highway speeds. This will be the biggest impediment for large-scale penetration and production of hybrids in developed markets such as the U.S.”
Again, Kar says Frost & Sullivan’s survey data coupled with industry research reveals that most fleet managers want to achieve payback for hybrid trucks within 4 to 4 1/2 years of purchasing them.
“With a rapid increase in diesel prices, the payback period can shorten significantly, and that, more than any incentive or tax credit, will lead proactive fleet managers toward hybrids and pure electrics,” he says. “When we start to move to $4.50 to $5/gal. diesel, that’s when the gains fuel efficiency hybrids offer really begin to narrow the price points compared to gasoline- or diesel-only powered vehicles.”