Green Fleet

Northwest Agencies Partner to Purchase Hybrid Trucks

A consortium of 14 local and state government agencies uses its combined purchasing power to negotiate favorable pricing for medium-duty hybrid trucks. The group also aims to promote the availability of the new technology.

January 2009, Government Fleet - Feature

by Joe Bohn - Also by this author

Medium-duty hybrid trucks, like those of the King County Department of Transportation (KCDOT), are more than paying for themselves, while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Seattle-based KCDOT put its first Class 7 hybrid-electric vehicle, a Kenworth lift truck, into service September 2007. An International Truck & Engine hybrid hauler and another lift truck have been added.

As other trucks in its fleet age and must be replaced, King County plans to buy new hybrids whenever possible.

Bob Toppen, KCDOT's fleet administration equipment manager, calls the hybrid trucks' fuel savings "huge" and says he's looking for new areas to incorporate future hybrid purchases "where they make sense" from a practical application, as well as an environmental standpoint.

Harold Taniguchi, KCDOT director, said the Kenworth has been "exceeding expectations in performance and driver acceptance, as well as fuel economy."

KCDOT's hybrid Kenworth is equipped with a utility bucket atop a 50-foot boom, longer than the standard aerial lift, and used primarily to maintain traffic signals.

Hybrid System Prices Dropping

Spearheaded by Windell Mitchell, former director of King County's Fleet Administration Division now retired, a consortium of local and state governmental agencies, purchased a total of 10 hybrid vehicles and plans to buy more. The consortium aims to take hybrid vehicle technology to the next level with production of medium and heavy trucks.

Through the purchasing power of that consortium, Mitchell negotiated a deal on the cost of the Kenworth's hybrid-electric system.

At the time, such hybrid-electric systems added $60,000-$65,000 to the cost of a medium-duty. KCDOT paid that premium for its two subsequent International hybrid truck purchases.

With the medium/heavy truck hybrid market opening up and other manufacturers such as Peterbilt, a division of PACCAR Corp., and Freightliner Division of Daimler Trucks North America LLC now offering the systems, prices have dropped into the $40,000-$45,000 range, said Toppen.

And that, coupled with sharply higher prices for diesel fuel, has turned these hybrids into money-saving investments.

KCDOT originally calculated it would take eight years to recoup the cost of the hybrid trucks. Now, however, the payback is coming "much quicker than we anticipated," said Toppen.

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