Friday, February 09, 2007

The Greening of Garbage Trucks

Those big, belching trucks that collect your garbage while getting around 4 mpg may soon be replaced by hybrids that produce energy while braking, gain extra energy from stored hydraulic power while creeping around city streets, and shut off automatically when stopped. This same technology, being prototyped and tested in several cities, also makes sense for delivery vans, shuttle buses, and postal vehicles.

As reported by Frank Greve in a McClatchy Newspapers article, Hybrids could turn big U.S. truck fleets green, hybrid hydraulic vehicles capture up to 75 percent of braking energy, compared to the 25 percent that is typical of hybrid electric vehicles.

Right now, however, the purchase incentives are stalled by a crucial component that must be provided by the EPA:

Hybrid trucks seemed to get a major boost from Washington under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which offers tax credits of up to $12,000 per hybrid truck to compensate for their higher price. The incentive was to start in January 2006, but hybrid makers and potential customers still can't count on it.

That's because the size of the tax credit, which the Internal Revenue Service oversees, depends on how much fuel a hybrid truck saves, and the EPA hasn't come out with a system to measure the fuel savings.

Fuel savings could be enormous once this hurdle is overcome.