Electric utility fleet managers are looking to telematics to help find the appropriate duty cycles for alternative-powered vehicles.
As more companies add hybrid and alternative-powered vehicles, electric utility and telecommunications fleet managers said that finding the right duty use for the vehicles
can mean the difference between lower costs or a costly waste.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co., one of the nation’s largest utilities and already a significant user of alternatives to traditional gasoline and diesel fuel, will
test and adopt a number of different vehicle power systems, including electric cars and trucks, over the next few years, said Des Bell, senior vice president of shared services and chief procurement officer.
PG&E is No. 6 on LIGHT & MEDIUM TRUCK’S list of the Top 50 Utility & Telecom fleets.
“By 2016, our goal is to have the greenest fleet in the nation,” Bell told fleet managers at the Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference in Williamsburg,
Va., in June.
The issue PG&E and other fleets face, Bell said, is to find the right place to use each power system.
“No one fuel or technology is the single answer,” Bell said. As a result, “we need to match the technology to our needs.”
Alan Riddle, director of transportation services for Southern California Edison (No. 26), which already runs 20 diesel-electric hybrid bucket trucks, said the company wants
to add telematics to the current units to better understand if they are being used in the most efficient way before adding more to the fleet. ?
You have to profile the work accurately. We want to use telematics to manage the performance of the vehicle and to drive our replacement decisions. There are multiple solutions to running a green fleet.
We have to determine which solutions to use and where,” he said.
Current truck engines monitor dozens, if not hundreds, of activities during operation. A telematics system typically captures as much or as little of that data as requested.
The data are available to the truck user as reports that can be downloaded directly from the truck or accessed via password-protected websites. Besides tracking such basics as engine and fuel use, a system
can include the number of hours a power take-off was running, the amount of fuel used or if a boom was up or down.
Mike Allison, director of fleet design and technology at Duke Energy Corp. (No. 29), which acquired three diesel-electric hybrid bucket trucks in 2006, said they have been using telematics on those units
to get a picture of their daily operation.
Fuel savings range from 10% to 30%, compared with a comparable diesel-powered unit, Allison said, but they are “very application-driven.”
“Without telematics on the trucks, we don’t know what the truck is doing,” he said during a panel discussion at the conference. He noted, as an example,
that without telematics they would not have known the boom on one of the trucks had been extended several times over several weeks, a safety hazard.
David Meisel, PG&E fleet director, said that over the next six years the fleet will add about 8,500 hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
“Each is very duty-cycle dependent. One size hybrid doesn’t fit all,” he said.
Claude Masters, fleet manager with FPL, said the company has 24 diesel-electric medium-duty hybrid trucks. Fuel economy savings range from 14% to 54%, again, Masters said,
depending on the application.
Jerry Pella, fleet manager with Westar Energy, said the fleet will include onboard telematics in its first hybrid units, five Freightliner M2 “trouble trucks”
it will add in 2011. The technology will provide him with more in-depth detail about the vehicle use and operation, he noted.
“We’ll go with onboard telematics to show us how they’re performing,” he said.
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