Cummins says it is starting development of a plug-in hybrid electric Class 6 truck that will boost fuel economy by 50%. A Class 6 truck has a gross vehicle weight of between 19,000 and 26,000 pounds. The category includes trucks with a single rear axle and school buses. Examples of a Class 6 truck include the International Durastar, Chevrolet Kodiak/GMC TopKick C6500, and the Ford F-650, according to Wikipedia.

Cummins working on plug-in hybrid Class 6 trucks

The project will be funded in part by a $4.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.  Cummins’ primary objective is to develop a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle that can ensure fuel efficiency while offering improved performance. Its researchers will optimize the powertrain by selecting the engine best suited for use as an electric commercial vehicle range extender. That engine will be used to manage the charge level of the all-electric drive battery pack. The range extender will be integrated, using advanced vehicle controls, with the electrified powertrain and other applicable technologies.

Partners in the project include PACCAR, Ohio State University, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the Argonne National Laboratory. PACCAR manufactures medium- and heavy-duty trucks under the Kenworth, Peterbilt, and DAF brand names.

“The close integration and control of the electrified powertrain with an appropriately selected engine is critically important to developing a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle system,” said Wayne Eckerle, Vice President, Research and Technology, Cummins Inc. “We believe that through the team’s efforts we can soon make these innovations commercially available, which has the potential to translate into substantial savings annually per vehicle, helping our customers and the environment.”

The reduction of fuel consumption will be accomplished using a range of drive cycles designed to meet the needs of commercial fleet operators. In addition to a plug-in hybrid powertrain, the trucks will feature other technologies, including intelligent transportation systems and electronic braking. Ultimately, the researchers aim to demonstrate improved fuel consumption and state-of-the-art drivability and performance regardless of environmental conditions. Cummins has not announced when it expects its plug-in hybrid electric trucks to be available.

This is important news because Class 6 trucks are widely used in commercial applications. Think of these new trucks as a really heavy-duty version of the Chevy Volt. Raising their average fuel economy — which tends to be dreadful — will pay bigger dividends for the environment than raising the national average for private passenger cars by a few percentage points. The Cummins research should have real benefits, as opposed to the story about electric tractor trailers from Oakridge Battery that turned out to be vaporware.

Source: Electric Cars Report