Robins APTO helps AF, industry develop hybrid truck technology

  • Published
  • By Amanda Creel
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
When it comes to heavy duty, special purpose vehicles most Americans imagine a gas guzzling engine and tons of unfriendly emissions taking their toll on the environment.

But the Air Force's Advanced Power Technology Office is working to change the stereotype and prove heavy-duty hybrid electric vehicles can not only help preserve the environment, but also can help reduce dependence on foreign fuels.

"Heavy-duty vehicles are the greatest consumers of fuel and also the greatest polluters. If we can get heavy-duty vehicles to reduce fuel consumption and reduce pollutants that will be a great accomplishment for the Air Force," said Harvey Collier, program manager for heavy-duty hybrid electric program.

The program is a combined effort by APTO, which is part of the 580th Combat Sustainment Squadron, and Mack Trucks Inc., which is part of the Volvo Group.

One of the vehicles developed through the partnership was displayed at the Hybrid Truck User Forum Sept. 19-21 in Seattle.

The vehicle, a dump truck, was built for the Air Force's APTO and presently calls Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., home. It is a Mack hybrid electric powertrain.

The hybrid dump truck features an integrated starter, alternator and motor referred to collectively as an electric machine. The electric machine assist the Granite's Mack MP7 diesel engine in providing torque to the wheels and regenerates energy during braking. This energy, stored in ultracapacitors, is then used in place of diesel fuel. This technology provides the best result on routes with frequent braking and accelerations, particularly refuse collection and urban delivery, as well as certain construction applications.

Along with the hybrid at Nellis AFB, the program will utilize five other heavy-duty hybrid vehicles. Two other vehicles have already been deployed to various bases throughout the Air Force. Shaw AFB, .C., is home to an R-11 refueler and Hickam AFB, Hawaii, has a dump truck. In 2008, three additional hybrid trucks will be delivered to Edwards AFB, Calif., Nellis and Robins.

The truck scheduled to arrive at Robins will help collect data on the success of the vehicle in a real-time environment. The data collection will be done through an agreement with the City of Macon and in partnership with the Middle Georgia Clean Cities Coalition.

"It will actually be on the streets of Macon doing refuse collection, just like any of their other trucks," Mr. Collier said. "We will test to see how it performs and what the savings are in comparison to a traditional refuse truck."

The truck will be in Macon for one year to demonstrate its capabilities and then will move to other locations to repeat the process, said Mike Mead, APTO office chief.

The APTO office works to apply the greener technology to all the different platforms used by the Air Force to achieve its mission, Mr. Mead said.

He said the heavy-duty hybrid program is one they use to help them achieve their goals of increasing capabilities and benefits to the warfighter, while supporting the Air Force's environmental and energy policy requirements and reducing dependency on foreign energy sources with the insertion of advanced power technology.

The development of the prototypes and the application of the technology in various venues are done to prove the value of the technology in different applications, Mr. Mead said.

By allowing the warfighter to test the reliability and advantages of hybrid technology, the pair agreed it allows the user to develop a desire to continue using the new technology.

"Right now, these are just prototypes. As commercialization takes place, price will come down where we could have them all over the Air Force with a potential for all sorts of savings in fuel," Mr. Collier said.

Ernie Powell, APTO engineer, said the program will allow the Air Force to utilize advanced power technology and alternative fuels. It will also assist and encourage private industry to continue developing and increasing the reliability of the hybrids.