Azure Dynamics Hybrid Truck Drive Improves MPG by 30 Percent

By dancurranjr On March 13th, 2009

azure-hybrid-systemAzure Dynamics produces electric/gas hybrid systems for commercial vehicles such as trucks and shuttle buses.  The systems are designed for trucks similar to FedEx or UPS delivery trucks and can increase the miles per gallon of these vehicles.

According to an article in Popular Mechanics, Azure Dynamics uses a Ford “E450 truck chassis and 5.4-liter V8 engine”.  Azure chose to go with Ford’s chassis and engine because it was already EPA-certified.  EPA certification of a self-developed engine would take too long and be way too expensive.

Added to the Ford chassis and engine is a 130 hp-AC induction motor.  The electric engine works similar to other hybrid systems.  Above 35 mph the electric engine assists the gasoline engine.  Below 35 mph, the electric motor runs the truck.

When in electric only mode, an electronic system “shut(s) down the gas engine and decouple(s) the four-speed automatic transmission from the driveshaft by disengaging the gearboxes clutches.”  This sounds much more complicated than what happens when a car drops into electric only mode.

Roughly $50,000 is the cost for the Ford chassis and engine coupled with the Azure powertrain.  Add to that cost, about $20,000 for the body and that is one hefty price tag for a hybrid delivery vehicle.

The steep cost of the hybrid underpinnings doesn’t provide the best return on investment at the moment but could prove worth it if gas climbs back to $4.00 per gallon.  The 30 percent increase in miles per gallon means the hybrid gets eight miles per gallon versus 6 miles per gallon.  Not that much of an improvement but still a savings.

Currently, you only save 1250 gallons per year at $2.00 per gallon, which lends itself to a decades long payback.  Even at $4.00 per gallon it would be a long time before the investment pays off.

According to Azure, if it can ramp up production to 2,000 hybrids trucks sold, the price for the vehicles would drop by 30 percent.  Add that to the savings as the price of gas goes up and it might be a good investment.

Because Azure has partnered with Ford for the chassis and engine, Ford has another sales outlet that will bring in a little money and hopefully some good ideas for its own Ford trucks.

SOURCE: Tech Blorge

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