Kenworth Hybrid Truck in Action - Gates Automotive

The Kenworth T270 and T370 medium-duty hybrid trucks are some of the most common hybrids in commercial vehicles in North America. Gates Automotive of Henrietta, New York recently purchased a T270 Hybrid for towing and talked to FutureCars about their truck.

kenworth hybrid truck
photos courtesy of Gates Automotive

by Aaron Turpen

Specs:

  • Type: Flat Bed Towing
  • Class: Commercial Class 6 (26,000 GVW)
  • Manufacturer: Kenworth
  • Propulsion system: Paccar-Eaton Diesel-Electric Hybrid (parallel)
  • Fuel(s): Diesel / Biodiesel (B85)
  • Battery system: 340V Lithium-ion
  • Price: +$30,000-$35,000 premium
  • Availability: North and South America

The manufacturer says

The Kenworth T270 Class 6 conventional delivers more from the moment it arrives. More versatility. More productivity. More efficiency. And more control over your business.

Overview

The Kenworth T270 uses the Paccar PX-6 (6.7L, 300hp, 620lb-ft torque) diesel engine, a frame-mounted lithium-ion battery pack (370V), and an integral motor/generator (transmission-mounted). The motor helps propel the truck up to 30mph (which is when the vehicle uses the most power) and the truck then operates as a standard diesel truck. This saves 30% or more fuel (up to 50% for work trucks, due to idle). The motor also acts as a drive line clutch, slowing the truck and regenerating power to store in the batteries.

kenworth hybrid truck

The power management system for the truck monitors and optimizes engine/motor power usage and updates the driver through an in-dash display which graphically illustrates the power train's current state.

User Profile - Gates Automotive, Henrietta, NY

FutureCars spoke with Mike Cutaia of Gates Automotive Center in Henrietta, New York. Gates recently purchased two Kenworth T270 tow trucks, one a conventional diesel and the other a hybrid. Gates is one of the area's largest towing and repair shops and has a unique focus on sustainability in their operations.

Cutaia says that the company plans to compare the two trucks in an apples-to-apples, real-world way to see how much savings the hybrid really gives. With the $34,000 extra price premium, they initially calculated that it would have a 90% return on investment (ROI) in five years if it performs at the 25-30% fuel savings expected.

Gates Auto, Cutaia points out, has a large mix of towing. "If [the hybrid] is kept in the local district and average speed under 35-40mph, its a very noticeable savings.† If used on the highway and average speeds 55-60mph, not so much.† We are figuring with the right management on use, we should see 25-30% in fuel savings."

The company's actual expectations for the truck, to make it minimally worth the purchase, is a 20% fuel savings. "If we can do that," Cutaia says, "we will likely purchase more of them."

kenworth hybrid

The new hybrid truck is based at Gates Automotive's new facility in Henrietta. The building itself was fully renovated and now sports an impressive 80% savings in energy consumption. Other environmentally-conscious practices the company is using include water-borne paints, a solvent-free parts washer (with a closed-loop capture system) and more.

Medium-Duty Hybrids Are a Big Market

In May, we reported on a Frost & Sullivan study projecting that medium-duty hybrid commercial vehicles will be the strongest sellers in fleet sales.

There are a lot of reasons for that and Gates Auto is a perfect example of why. These smaller (Class 4-6) trucks are the work force of America. They are popular amongst smaller businesses as work trucks, delivery vehicles, etc. and do not require special licensing (Commercial Driver's License or CDL) to operate.

Further, these medium-duty rigs usually stay within a hundred miles of their home base and are most often driven in urban or lower-speed environments. This means they are perfect candidates for electrification - either as hybrids or all-electric trucks. Hybrids are most efficient at speeds under 45mph.

Conclusions

Many companies are adopting medium-duty hybrid vehicles, especially the Kenworth models, in North America. Coca-Cola, Federal Express, UPS, and smaller companies like Gates Automotive are using these trucks to augment or replace their fleets for more efficient operations. For the near-future (the next decade, perhaps), hybrids like the Kenworth T270 and T370 models will become much more common on the roads of our towns and cities.

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