Breaker Breaker, We Got A Hybrid Big Rig

With word coming out that the Obama Administration is pushing for a 20 percent improvement in big-rig fuel economy and emissions by 2018, the timing here couldn’t be better: Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) and Walmart have unveiled a hybrid version of the Frieightliner Cascadia, a key truck in Daimler Trucks North America’s line of heavy-duty rigs.

The truck has a Detroit Diesel DD15 engine like the usual Freightliner Cascadia, but also “features a  parallel hybrid system based on an electrically driven second drive axle,” Daimler said in a press release. The system uses advanced lithium-ion-based energy storage and electronic control algorithms developed with Daimler’s Global Hybrid Center in Japan.

image via Daimler Trucks North America

Daimler called the rig “the next evolution in hybrid electric solutions for heavy-duty vehicles.” It didn’t, however, say what kind of mileage the hybrid might get, beyond noting that “initial assessments of fuel efficiency … indicate the potential of this technology.” The press release also didn’t say when the vehicle might actually be produced and come into use.

Walmart has been moving toward hybrid transportation solutions for quite some time. It got its first Peterbilt hybrid truck in 2007, and in 2009 announced a program to test several different hybrid and alternative fuel trucks.

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.