"My guess is that you can make a serial (hybrid) heavy duty pickup
that weighs the same as a conventional diesel powered pickup. Its configuration
will depend on how far you want to go with plug-in power versus how long
you want to sustain power climbing a 15% grade towing 20,000-pounds,
as to how you size the generator and the batteries. If you use a bigger
generator, you can trade-off with a smaller battery pack," says
the need for a bigger generator, the truck’s chassis
would be redesigned to squeeze more batteries around the bed. The live
axle and leaf springs would be chucked in favor of an independent rear
suspension, reclaiming wasted space beneath the cargo box.
pickup owners care as much about range as they do towing capacity,
so they don’t have to make frequent fuel stops hauling
a trailer. Mr. Wright believes his system would provide at least a 300-mile
range, with the same weight and towing capacity as current trucks.
"If you’re going to build (plug-in serial hybrid) heavy
duty trucks to compete with the current ones, you can’t compromise
on (towing, weight, and range)," says Mr. Wright.
would occur is in the purchase price. A serial hybrid pickup won’t be cheap, costing an estimated $20,000 or more than
a conventional diesel powered truck.
"Cost is going to depend on the price of fuel. If fuel is $4.00/gallon
and you’re driving 25,000 miles per year, and you’re getting
10-mpg towing, that’s $50,000 over five years. If you did the same
thing with a plug-in hybrid, using only grid power, it would be about
$6,000. That means you could afford to pay quite a bit more for the vehicle," says
Mr. Wright. He also expects a hybrid’s lower maintenance costs
to also provide further economic incentive.
But to Mr.
Wright, the thing that makes pickup trucks such a good target is that
most of the time they operate well under their maximum rated power.
"That’s not an efficient way to build a car," he says. "You
need to have the peak power to tow and accelerate,
but most of the time you don’t use it. Cylinder deactivation is
one way of getting at the problem but it doesn't nearly solve it."
motors and batteries would operate optimally across a wide range of
power needs, from the equivalent of as little as 20-horsepower during
40-mph unloaded, steady state driving, to as much as 1000-hp for brief
periods climbing a steep grade with a 20,000-lbs trailer.
comes back to fuel economy though, and Mr. Wright thinks poster-child
green-tech vehicles like the Toyota Prius are a dead-end compared to
just one 10-mpg truck and one 50-mpg Prius," he
says. "Drive them both 100-miles. The truck uses 10-gallons, the
Prius 2-gallons. Improve the Prius to 100-mpg, drive another 100 miles.
Now it only uses 1-gallon, you saved 1-gallon. But improve the truck
by 12%. Now it does 11.2-mpg, and in 100-miles it will use 8.9-gallons,
an improvement of 1.1-gallons. If you doubled the trucks mpg, from 10
to 20, you'll save 5-gallons, 5 times as much as doubling the
mpg of the Prius."
is predicting his approach will deliver fuel economy that's close to
double today’s figures while towing, and
the equivalent of 80-mpg during unloaded, stop-and-go, commute-style
"When you compound this effect with the higher sales volume of
high fuel consumption vehicles like pickups," he says, "you
can see why it's completely pointless to improve the Prius, and
crucial to improve the trucks."