Unitil Corporation, (Unitil.com), a provider of natural gas and electricity to customers in New England, has added its first hybrid electric bucket truck to the company’s vehicle fleet in a move that will reduce carbon emissions, cut fuel costs and improve field working conditions.
Unlike a conventional vehicle, the hybrid truck uses a rechargeable battery to power the boom - the arm with the bucket attached - rather than its diesel engine.
"The addition of this hybrid truck is just one of the efforts we’re making as we remain committed to environmental stewardship."
Media Relations Manager, Alec O’Meara
The cleaner-powered truck allows for the diesel engine to be turned off while an electric power take-off system is used for boom operation. If the battery runs low, the power source for the boom can be switched over to the diesel engine until the battery is recharged.
The use of an electric power take-off system, versus running the diesel engine, for boom operations has several benefits, including a reduction of emissions from a diesel engine that would typically idle for several hours a day while crews work from the bucket, lower fuel costs, improved worker health and safety conditions stemming from less diesel exhaust at the work site, and a significant noise reduction.
The addition of a hybrid truck is one step Unitil is taking as it works toward its goal of a 50% reduction in direct operational carbon emissions by 2030 and reaching net-zero by 2050.
“We realize the need to reduce emissions, and as part of our strategic plan we continue to look for ways to create a clean and sustainable future. The addition of this hybrid truck is just one of the efforts we’re making as we remain committed to environmental stewardship,” said Unitil Media Relations Manager Alec O’Meara.
The truck is expected to eliminate an estimated 20 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, which is equivalent to 4.3 gasoline passenger vehicles a year or the annual energy use of 2.5 households.
With less idling, the level of noise generated by the truck is greatly reduced, leading to a quieter environment for workers trying to communicate in the field and neighbors living near a job site.
Gregg Plumer, a lead line worker, has worked at Unitil for more than 30 years and knows just how noisy the idling diesel engines can be, especially when there are multiple trucks working in the same area. He’s been operating the electrified power take-off boom on the new hybrid truck in recent weeks and has noticed the difference.
“It’s nice to have it quiet,” Plumer said.
The new hybrid electric bucket truck was built by James A. Kiley Co. of Somerville, Mass., utilizing a Viatec electric power take-off system and a Freightliner chassis.
Unitil expects to add its second hybrid electric bucket truck to the fleet later this year along with several Ford F150 hybrid pickup trucks.