Hooniverse at the NTEA – The Green Truck Ride and Drive Event

Yes, this is another National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) Work Truck Show posting, but this time it is about the Green Truck Ride and Drive Event. These are all the trucks that are Hybrids, Electrics, and Propane and Natural Gas fueled vehicles. I was specifically there to try the Hino Hybrid, as well as the Smith Electric Truck, but I also went for a drive in a CNG van to see if it drove significantly different from a gasoline version.

The one reason why I wanted to try the Hino Hybrid model was the fact that this is essentially a different version of the standard Hino Cabover truck, the first offered within the US since 2003. One thing I noticed is that the cab felt roomier than the Fuso Canter, and the Isuzu NPR, with ergonomic controls, and intuitive features. The Hybrid incorporates an engine stop/start feature, and an electric type brake hill holder. The instrumentation actually changes depending if you are in Diesel mode, or pure electric mode. The ride is acceptable, and similar to the Fuso and Isuzu models. The 210HP engine is more than adequate to move the truck with authority, and the regenerative braking system isn’t as intrusive as I thought it would be. The question is this: Will the Hybrid premium pay for itself in the long run?

I next tried the Smith Purely Electric Truck, and low and behold, it needed to be recharged. This particular truck was just a pure cab/chassis model, so it really isn’t set up to perform hauling duties. To have this truck need a recharge at 2:00 in the afternoon is telling and one wonders if this is really the answer to the question that no one has asked.

The last truck I tried was the Propane fueled Ford E-350 Full Service Van and, well, it performed just like the Gasoline Powered E-350. This is the answer where Propane filling stations are common, as the vehicle produces significantly less emissions that a gasoline fueled vehicle. Other that the lack of infrastructure, there is very little downside in choosing this type of fuel for motor vehicles.

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  1. Smells_Homeless Avatar

    Sorry about all that liquid sky.

  2. dwegmull Avatar

    So did you get another opportunity to drive the Smith Electric? I wonder if it was "empty" because it did not get charged the night before the show…
    Anyway, their website is a bit short on details such as battery capacity, type of plug and circuit needed to charge it. Did they give more details at the show? Inquiring geeky mind(s) want to know…

  3. P161911 Avatar

    I have heard of a few police departments using propane or LNG for cop cars. The biggest complaint is the tanks they used didn't have the range for a full shift.

  4. Lex Avatar

    In almost two years in and around Seoul, S. Korea i never saw a cab that wasn't LPG/CNG.
    Getting it out of the ground may be problematic, but as an easy, transition solution i think it makes a lot of sense. The converted fork truck at work almost never needs an oil change…and it's a pretty old Mitsu I-4 engine that spends a lot of time idling. Refueling/range could be an issue, but that's an easy…nearly completed…infrastructure anyhow.
    I wonder how the fuel injected engines handle cold starting? I assume they still use the cooling system to gas(s?)ify the compressed liquid. Loooong warmup times with a carb, and when it's cold enough you just can't get the engine started.

  5. ChuckyShamrok Avatar

    You can get your propane powered cars filled at the local U-Haul center

  6. Jim-Bob Avatar

    The city of Sarasota, Florida has used propane powered vehicles exclusively for over 25 years. It seems to work well for them and I see no reason it would not work for anyone else so long as the infrastructure was in place.
    As interesting as an electric truck may be to some environmentalists, I simply do not think the technology has reached a point where it is practical in such an application. At best it might work to shuttle goods around a dock or warehouse (like a forklift) but the slow fueling…err…charging required makes it impractical for much else.
    Now for the hybrid. I like the stop/start feature and wish more vehicles had it as idling wastes a lot of fuel and a robust stop/start motor on the flywheel would substantially increase fuel economy. However I would be concerned with reliability and repair costs for a relatively new system when used in a medium duty truck platform.
    All in all though we do need more and better alternatives to gasoline and fossil fuels for powering our vehicles. Oil will not last forever and while I support increased domestic production, I also want to see the time it would buy used to produce a replacement technology. That way we can lose our dependence on unstable parts of the world that can break us at their whim.

    1. P161911 Avatar

      The main reason electric forklifts work, especially with bigger operations is the ability to relatively easily swap in a new battery pack. I have worked several places that have charging stations for the forklift batteries. I hoist system is required, but it seems to work out.
      I could see a major in-town/short haul freight operation using electric trucks IF you could just swap in a fresh battery pack with a forklift in 15 min. or less. You could swap the battery pack while the truck is being loaded, do a few deliveries, and when you come back for another load get a fresh battery.

  7. LTDScott Avatar

    Yeah, LPG is super popular in Australia too.