With many car manufacturers having expanded their line of hybrid cars over recent years, we are now seeing the commercial vehicle market being the subject of extensive hybrid technology developments. A recent study by the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory showed that such hybrid vans were significantly more economical.
The study’s chief engineer Michael Lammert stated that “During the on-road portion of our study, the hybrid vans demonstrated a 13 to 20% higher fuel economy than the conventional vans,” It was important to note however that these fuel economy variations depended very much on drive style. The study analyses the impact of hybridisation on both fuel economy and performance, showing where hybrid vehicles offer maximum savings.
Not as reliable?
It was noted however that during the study, hybrid reliability was slightly lower than conventional vans, but that such reliability was due to troubleshooting issues rather than the intrinsic nature of the design. The vehicles used had 44kw electric motors, Li batteries and regenerative braking systems which recycle energy lost through braking. The test consisted of two fleets of UPS delivery vans, one set conventional and the other set, hybrid. All the vans had various sensors equipped to measure efficiency and the driving stye.
Certainly it would seem that given this, and other studies, the benefits of hybrid technology in commercial vehicles are clear. It is worth mentioning that hybrid technology works best in stop-start conditions where there both electric and petrol motors take turns to power the vehicle and where energy lost through braking is effectively recaptured. What is important however when considering commercial use, is the reliability factor. If it is proven that these hybrids aren’t quite as reliable as their conventional counterparts, you may well see your commercial vehicle insurance rise by a fair bit.