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Lightning Stresses Larger Vehicles

January 21, 2014 in Companies, Hydraulic Hybrid by Rich Piellisch  |  No Comments

Superior Torque is the Differentiator for the Hydraulic Hybrid,
Colorado Company Promotes Brake Retarder to Show Benefits

Colorado’s Lightning Hybrids is moving to differentiate its hydraulic hybrid drivetrains from the electric hybrid competition. A key distinction is the suitability of the higher-torque hybrid for heavy vehicles, the company says.

Lightning's parallel system allows a vehicle to operate normally in case of a problem with the add-on drive.

Lightning’s parallel system allows a vehicle to operate normally in case of a problem with the add-on drive.

To help make the case, Lightning has introduced a brake retarder to help bring the hybrid vehicle option to an already established market. Lightning has a new lease program too, and is making the argument that its hydraulic hybrid drivetrains are suitable for alternative fuel vehicles as well as gasoline and diesel vehicles.

The Loveland-based company promises the “shortest financial payback of any alternative fuel or advanced technology option for heavy-duty drive cycles.”

Savings of 20% to Nearly 40%

Citing internal testing and evaluations at Colorado State University, Lightning claims fuel savings ranging from 20% to nearly 40% for its system, which instead of a chemical battery uses hydraulic pumps and a lightweight pressure vessel accumulator to store braking energy. This energy is then released to improve acceleration with less fuel burn.

Lightning Hybrids installation on a Colorado State University vehicle.

Lightning Hybrids installation on a Colorado State University vehicle.

A shuttle bus making about two stops per miles will see savings of 20%, says Lightning president and co-founder Tim Reeser. Buses stopping eight times per mile will see savings of 36% or better, he says, while the main target market, delivery vehicles topping an average of five times per mile, should see savings of 30%.

Because they burn more fuel, and thus have a shorter payback for a given savings percentage, larger vehicles are the most promising.

“We are purposefully working to segment ourselves into the bigger vehicles,” Reeser says.

As Low as $15,900

Lightning’s new hydraulic brake retarder, while optimized for brake wear reduction rather than fuel savings, uses the same accumulators as the full hydraulic hybrid drive and yields some of the same fuel-saving benefits. It represents a way to introduce the hydraulic hybrid concept to a customer base that’s investing money to save brakes anyway, Reeser says.

LHI-bus-no-bg-700A further attraction? “There are several hundred thousand brake retarders sold every year,” Reeser told F&F.

And, “Our maintenance window is significantly better,” he adds.

Lightning has just posted a quantity (ten or more) list price of $15,900 for its retrofit drivetrains for vehicles up through Class 3. (Reeser says that a somewhat lower price for the brake retarder will be posted soon.) Lightning system for heavier vehicles are priced accordingly.

The company’s leasing program too allows customers to finance their hydraulic hybrid drivetrain modifications. “We’re big fans of a five-year lease,” Reeser says, which demonstrably saves money “every month compared to the incremental cost of the hybrid system.” Fleet operators, he says, will see fuel savings amounting to “about half again more than our lease each month.”

Overcoming a Gaseous Fuel Challenge

The higher torque of the hydraulic hybrid system can also help overcome the low-end torque challenges association with compressed natural gas and propane vehicles, Reeser says.

“We add torque to the bottom ends, the zero to 20 miles per hour,” Reeser says, overcoming the sluggishness sometimes associated with gaseous fuel vehicles. “Historically the market has taken an either-or approach to hybrids or alt fuels. We believe there’s very much an ‘and.’”

An unnamed customer is installing a Lightning drive in both propane and CNG Ford F-59 strip chassis trucks, Reeser says, promising to release details with 90 days.

Lightning currently offers its hydraulic hybrid upfits in vehicles including

  • Ford E-350 and E-450 with 158-inch wheelbase or greater;
  • Ford F-350XT, F-450XT and F-550XT with 164-inch wheelbase or greater;
  • Ford F-59 strip chassis all wheelbase
  • 2015 Ford Transit van/wagon with 148-inch wheelbase and cab chassis with 156-inch and greater wheelbase (when available);
  • Mercedes Sprinter cab chassis and van with 170-inch wheelbase;
  • Freightliner MT-45, MT-55 and MB-65 trucks and B2 106 chassis (Thomas Built Saf-T-Liner C2 311TS school bus);
  • Chevrolet Express/Savana vans 2500 and 3500 with 155-inche wheelbase; and
  • Chevrolet 4500 series cutaway with 159-inch wheelbase or greater.

Additional versions, CEO Dan Johnson says on the firm’s excellent new website, can be engineered in about two weeks.

Lightning has designed its own hydraulic accumulators, which are manufactured by affiliate Steelhead Composites.

Fleets now operating Lightning-converted vehicles include COLT, the local City of Loveland Transit, Colorado State University at Fort Collins, Kiessling Transit in Norfolk, Mass., and National Fleet Hybrids in Boston.

Lightning Hybrids sees promise for its hydraulic hybrid products as far afield as India.

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Source: Fleets & Fuels interview

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