The popular Cash-for-Clunkers program has helped spotlight efforts to improve automotive fuel economy. But that ignores what are quite literally the biggest gas guzzlers on the road: the nation’s fleet of heavy-duty trucks.
Typically in use 24/7, it’s common for a Class 8 truck to log more than 100,000 miles a year, and 6 miles per gallon is considered good fuel economy. That could change, if the Detroit-based supplier ArvinMeritor can move from concept to production with a heavy-duty hybrid-electric truck cab it is developing. The lithium ion-based system should reduce the typical trucks fuel consumption by 15 to 20%, company officials told U.S. Energy Secretary Carol Browner during a late Monday meeting.
“Our estimate is that this configuration could save 3,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year,” the project’s director, Chad Mitts, later explained to TheDetroitBureau.com.
While Mitts declined to discuss the projected price of the Class 8 hybrid, he agreed that “a fair estimate” would be $25,000 to $40,000 above the typical $100,000 cost of a well-equipped truck cab with sleeper quarters. At that price, he said a trucker or fleet owner could potential achieve “payback” within three years – in other words, the fuel savings would more than cover the added cost of the hybrid system.