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The Truck You Don't Hear Idling Next To You At A Red Light

In November, 2007 Coca-Cola Enterprises announced that, beside installing energy-efficient lighting at their 264,000 square foot Bronx, New York warehousing facility, the company is deploying hybrid delivery trucks. Their hybrid program has just recently been touted as an overwhelming success.

What? You heard it right. Hybrid technology is now so sophisticated that it's not just offered in compact cars with space-age looks any more.

The gasoline/electric hybrids cost $85,000 apiece. However, Coca-Cola claims that the 37% fuel savings will recoup the additional cost of the vehicles. The trucks are the traditional side-loading non-refrigerated trucks with roll-up doors on both sides. The truck bodies are built by International Harvester Corp., which cooperated with hybrid technology experts at Eaton Corporation in manufacturing the drive train, which boasts an automatic transmission.

The trucks will run on electricity alone at 30 miles per hour and below, and the engines will not idle at stoplights. This is part of the reason the vehicles are estimated to generate 32% fewer greenhouse gases.

Who'd Have Thought Coke Would Be The First To Go Green?

So many corporations pay lip service political correctness these days it's hard to sort out what's real and what's smoke and mirrors. Long ago, Benetton began exploiting models of different ethnic backgrounds (even, at one time, exploiting a man whose face was covered with Kaposi's Sarcoma lesions) to appeal to proponents of diversity. Yet their wares are turned out using third-world labor. One need look at the labels, not the enormous, colorful billboards to discover that.

Whole Foods Markets make a big deal about selling organic and healthy foods. Take a walk out back and you'll see that the produce and dry goods are delivered utilizing conventional diesel and gasoline powered vehicles.

Is it just me or does it seem that Coca-Cola is one of the last companies one would think of when thinking about environmental responsibility? Well, color me wrong.

Eaton and Hybrid Technology Innovation

The delivery vehicles were developed by the International Harvester Corporation, manufacturers of small- to large-sized delivery vehicles, in conjunction with hybrid technology produced by the Eaton Corporation.

Mind you, these vehicles are no Honda Civic Hybrids. These are heavy-duty delivery trucks engineered for use in some of trucking's toughest territory, the South Bronx area of New York City. Not only are the trucks living up to their efficiency claims, Coca-Cola claims that the vehicles require less maintenance than their conventional vehicles. This is due in part to hybrid's affinity for operating in heavy start-and-stop cycles. Unlike their automotive counterparts, the styling of the vehicles is more utilitarian and less futuristic.

Eaton has also deployed hybrid busses in China, with equal success. They're currently working on high-technology hybrid-powered vehicles for the U.S. Army, as well.

Eaton's latest product (which makes an awful lot of sense) is a heavy-duty truck with a lift bucket (a "Cherry Picker"). The vehicle needn't idle to operate the hydraulics necessary to move the personnel bucket around the work area. The vehicle also contains a 240-volt three-phase generator for electric utility applications. The truck is peculiar in that there's no gear shift lever; only a set of push buttons for Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive and Low Gear operation. The vehicle has no parking pawl (a device which locks the wheels with the transmission when in "Park" mode) so extra care must be taken to be certain the air brakes on the vehicle are safety checked.

Ain't it funny how things come and go, and then come back again. Quite a few Chrysler cars in 1960s had push-button automatic transmissions.

A fascinating color presentation from Eaton and International is available here:


Where Do We Go From Here?

The New York market was a great place to launch a positive public relations generating move like this. However, Coke is putting more of the vehicles in service in the midwest, as well. By the end of 2008, Coke will have 180 of the vehicles in service nationwide.

Coke's are the largest of the Eaton/International models in service right now. Federal Express has 93 smaller hybrid vehicles in service, United Parcel Service is field testing 50 of the delivery trucks. Frito-Lay, a manufacturer of snack foods, has a single test model on the road.

So should you be at a stoplight in The City and fail to hear revving from the truck waiting alongside you, fear not; he's not stalled - he's hybrid.


A) Coca-Cola Fleet:

Coca-Cola Press Release

Business Journals Article

AutoBlog Green Website

Midwest Deployment of Hybrid Trucks

B) Eaton Corporation Hybrid Drive Information:

Eaton to Develop Digital Hybrid Drive for U.S. Army

Eaton/International Presentation Re: Hybrid Power Utility Truck With Cherry-Picker

Eaton Commercializes Hybrid Drives After Years of Field Testing

Eaton Deploys Hybrid Busses in China

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