Alt Power: Utility fleets continue to lead the charge

Alt Power: Utility fleets continue to lead the charge

The theme of the 2015 Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference— Fleet Strategies to Maximize Total Company Performance— did not disappoint the record-setting 125 fleet representatives from 70 investor-owned electric utilities, electric cooperatives and electrical contractors in the U.S. and Canada who attended the annual educational event. One topic of great interest was electric and alternative fuel vehicles, an area where utility fleets have been leading adopters for many years.

Jim Piro, the president and chief executive officer of Portland General Electric, set the stage at EUFMC with a keynote address on Transportation Electrification. “The top reasons for fleet electrification,” he said, “are that electric vehicles can make good business sense with the right vehicle for an application and that leaders are able to shape the market, which is evolving quickly.”

Types of electric vehicles in use at PGE include all-electric units that operate only on battery power, plug-in hybrids and extended range units that exhaust the battery charge and then switch to gas power, and electric power takeoff (ePTO) systems in which the battery is used for vehicle propulsion and to power tools, equipment, and climate and auxiliary systems.

“The business case for electric vehicles should include consideration of extended lease terms, grant opportunities, tax credits and available incentives, and the potential for longer vehicle life and lower fuel and maintenance costs,” Piro said. “There are non-monetized benefits as well. A heavy-duty bucket truck with an ePTO, for example, can be safer, allow us to extend the work day, which boosts customer satisfaction, provide a better work environment for our crews, and reduce emissions.”

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Also on the EUFMC program was Mark Kosowski, a technical executive at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), who detailed the EPRI Plug-In Hybrid Medium-Duty Truck Demonstration and Evaluation Program, a nationwide demonstration and evaluation of medium-duty Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs). “The objectives,” he related, “were to develop a production-ready PHEV system for Class 2 to 8 trucks with ‘smart charging’ capability and to use the project results to optimize system performance and reduce costs.”

Alternate Fuel Utility Fleets
Glenn Martin, Florida Power and Light

All of those objectives were met, Kosowski said. A total of 296 trucks were deployed with 64 fleets in 23 states and Washington, D.C., including VIA Motors pickup-up trucks and vans and Odyne Systems Class 6 to 8 trucks. Chassis manufacturers included Freightliner, International, Ford and Kenworth. Final stage manufacturers included Altec, DUECO, Terex, Amthor, Vanair and Utilimaster.

“Data collection and analysis from all trucks will continue,” Kosowski added. “All the vehicles are equipped with a Data Acquisition System. Data collected daily includes motor, battery, charger and export power current and voltage, battery state of charge, motor and engine torque and speed, odometer reading, vehicle speed, accelerator and brake pedal position, fuel used, charger time, and software and calibration levels.”

Fleet electrification activities at Duke Energy were reported by Mike Allison, their director of design and tech support services. He related that to offset some fuel usage, his fleet will be deploying 47 VIA pickups, three VIA vans, four Odyne bucket trucks, three Odyne fuel tankers, six Odyne step vans, a Tesla Model S and 14 electric forklifts and ATVs this year.

PHEV deployment at Florida Power and Light was implemented as part of a commitment to promote the use of battery electric vehicles, according to Glenn Martin, the company’s fleet quality and reliability manager. FPL has deployed more than 130 hybrid and plug-in hybrid bucket trucks over the last six years, and also specs Jobsite Energy Management System (JEMS) units with electrified AC that operates on the battery to avoid excessive engine idling in summer months.

“We developed compact 120-volt charging stations to avoid relocating vehicle parking locations,” Martin said, “and there have been high levels of usage as operators have done a good job plugging in the units at night. They like that the units are quiet and offer air conditioning with the engine off.”

With alternative power an important part of utility fleet operations, EUFMC will undoubtedly continue to address the subject at its next conference, scheduled for June 5-8, 2016. For more information, visit the EUFMC website.

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