Monday, August 17, 2009

Hydraulic Hybrid Systems, LLC

As we have mentioned before, Lightning Hybrids has started a subsidiary called Hydraulic Hybrid Systems, LLC (HHS). This new company will manage the hydraulic retrofit/upfit side of the business.

This week our posts will focus on HHS - everything from our business plan to what our engineers are working on to make the hydraulic hybrid system a reality. We will start with the most current information about this project.


Hydraulic Hybrid Systems, LLC, a division of Lightning Hybrids Inc., has created a hydraulic hybrid system for the fleet truck market. The HHS solution involves inserting a high-efficiency, light-weight hydraulic propulsion system within the driveline of a vehicle. This system is designed and engineered to be installed in fourteen hours, including all controls and wiring harness, by a certified installer. The system has been successfully tested by the EPA and at various state sponsored university technology incubators including a program at Colorado State University. Successful installations have been on vehicles from the Ford Excursion to Class 8 vocational trucks.

In this very simple and effective configuration a hydraulic pump is coupled to the driveline via a belt and clutch. This parallel hybrid system can deliver over 40 percent improvement in fuel economy, depending on the amount of braking seen during a normal drive cycle. The pump and accumulators store braking energy, and upon acceleration, the pump becomes a motor that uses the stored energy in the accumulators(s) to provide torque to power the wheels. The large fuel efficiency gains are achieved by regenerating the braking energy that is normally lost to heat, and using this energy instead of (and in addition to, if needed) the internal combustion engine for acceleration.

The hydraulic hybrid system includes a heavy-duty Eaton hydraulic pump and motor, an ASTM certified high pressure accumulator tank, a low pressure reservoir, a valve block, HHS control system, brackets and associated certified hoses. System operation is seamless to the operator.

In addition to the demonstrated fuel savings opportunity there are other advantages to this type of hybrid system (especially for the fleet manager). They are: the system requires no bed or cab interior space since all components fit within the chassis frame; there is little or no additional workforce training needed in maintaining the system since hydraulic component and driveline maintenance is already being done in the shops of the target market; it is proven safe, and all components are readily available within the existing truck parts distribution network.

The critical and exciting opportunity for this technology is the return on investment garnered from fuel savings. The table below shows several examples and the assumptions made. Note that if gas prices are higher than $3 per gallon (as it already is in some parts of the US and all of Europe), the ROI improves further at a fast rate. This table does not include any federal credits for advanced vehicle technology, hybridization, or emissions improvement (which currently provide $1,500 to $7,500 incentives), nor does it account for savings with brake replacements or the extension of the service cycle for vehicles.

(Click on table to enlarge.)

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