Unitil, (Unitil.com), a provider of natural gas and electricity to customers in New England, is shifting to hybrid electric trucks to reduce carbon emissions, cut fuel costs and improve field working conditions.
The fleet of trucks at the Electric Avenue facility now includes a hybrid electric bucket truck in addition to five hybrid pickup trucks, with six more pickup trucks on order for 2023 along with a second hybrid bucket truck. “Reducing emissions will help create a cleaner and more sustainable future. This and other initiatives are part of our strategic plan for environmental stewardship,” said Unitil Media Relations Manager Alec O’Meara.
Unlike a conventional bucket vehicle, the hybrid truck uses a rechargeable battery to power the boom - the arm with the bucket attached - rather than its diesel engine. 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 for boom operations has several benefits: reducing emissions 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.
Lead line worker Todd Gauvin, who has been with the company for more than 11 years and works out of Unitil’s Lunenburg facility, said the new hybrid bucket truck is so much quieter and eliminates exhaust fumes while working on the power lines. “It is great to be able to shut off the engine and use the electrified power take-off boom. It makes it so much quieter,” Gauvin said.
The addition of hybrid trucks 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. The hybrid bucket truck alone 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.
The future of Unitil’s vehicle fleet, to help the company reach its 50% carbon emissions reduction goal by 2030, will include a mixture of hybrid, electric, and possible alternative fuel and/or technologies for medium and heavy duty vehicles without a viable EV alternative, including Idle Mitigation Technology which Unitil is currently piloting.