Since so many public utilities, city and county governments use bucket trucks to do all kinds of maintenance and construction work, there is a great deal of interest in finding ways to minimize fuel costs as well as minimizing the impact so many vehicles can have on the environment. A municipality will probably not just use bucket trucks, but boom trucks of various kinds, derrick digger trucks, crane trucks and dump trucks. Any technology that can help bring the short and long-term costs of these fleets down is very welcome.
Across the country, more and more utility companies as well as city and county governments are becoming interested in diesel-electric hybrid trucks for their fleets. While on the road, the hybrids run on a combination of bio-diesel and battery power. A hybrid is typically about 60% more fuel efficient than a regular diesel truck. This results in savings of $4,500 per year, per truck. Maintenance costs on the hybrids are also expected to be lower.
In addition, hybrid trucks have the ability to generate 25 Kilo Watts of electricity that can be used for homes while crews work on repairing outages. One truck can provide power to over a dozen homes. The bucket on these vehicles can be powered with an electric motor for up to two hours before the diesel engine needs to recharge the battery. This reduces noise and cuts fuel used just for these operations by 2/3.
Several utilities have pioneered the use of hybrid vehicles through pilot programs that are a partnership with the manufacturers of the hybrids. The utilities use the trucks for an extended period, then report back to the manufacturer on their likes and dislikes. The manufacturer can then consider the feedback and possibly incorporate it into future versions of the hybrid. There is a high level of interest in these pilot programs, because just about every entity that uses bucket trucks is looking for ways to save money.
With the success of hybrids already well-known in the passenger car market, it is probably only a matter of time before hybrid bucket trucks are widely available on the commercial market. It seems that almost everyone is trying to find ways to spend less on fuel while at the same time being more environmentally friendly. The new diesel and battery combination will probably spread all over the commercial trucking world, if it is found that bucket trucks can be effectively used this way.
While hybrid trucks are generally more expensive than their regular diesel counterparts, those trying to minimize their expenses might simply wish to wait a few years, and then purchases used bucket trucks and take advantage of the hybrid features that way. It shouldn’t be too many years before the hybrids become widely available, and if they perform as well as are expected, local governments and utility companies will be very interested in purchasing vehicles they need to buy anyway, with the added advantages of significant savings on fuel, environmentally friendly reduced admissions, and lower maintenance costs.