Trucks: Hybrid heavyweights

Hybrid vehicles offer better fuel efficiency, minimal maintenance, reduced emissions and less idling, but there’s another major benefit you may be unaware of: tax credits from the U.S. government for buyers of qualified heavy hybrid vehicles – up to $12,000 per vehicle – or qualified alternative fuel vehicles – up to $32,000 per vehicle.

Working in cooperation with Eaton – the first company to develop and market both hybrid electric and hybrid hydraulic systems for medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicles – truck manufacturers International, Freightliner, Peterbilt and Kenworth have developed what the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Heavy Manufacturing and Transportation Group deems “heavy hybrids,” or those that qualify for an Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit.

According to the treasury department, a qualified heavy hybrid must be new, weigh 8,500 pounds or more and draw energy from onboard sources of stored energy. The rules are different for qualified alternative fuel motor vehicles – or those that use compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, hydrogen or any liquid with at least 85 percent methanol. These units can be either new or used repowered to accept alternative fuel.

The list of qualified vehicles changes fairly frequently on the IRS’s website, and available tax credit depends on vehicle type. To see a current list of qualified heavy hybrids or qualified alternative fuel vehicles, visit,,id=175456,00.html.

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Scheduled for production late this summer are two examples of hybrids that can receive this tax credit: Peterbilt’s 2008 Model 330 and 335. These medium-duty hybrid electric vehicles have been designed for stop-and-go use, best suited for pickup and delivery, refuse and utility applications.

Both offer potential fuel savings (see chart on pg. 72 for a list of all qualifying heavy hybrid trucks), and government incentives or grants from state and local entities could offset hybrid costs by up to 20 percent, according to David Giroux, director of marketing communications, Peterbilt. Details on available incentives can be found on: and

Peterbilt’s Class 6 Model 330 has an available tax credit of $6,000 – the maximum amount for Class 6 hybrids – while the Class 7 Model 335 offers a $12,000 tax credit – the maximum amount for its class.

The models feature the Eaton Hybrid Power system, which integrates an electric motor/generator and two lithium ion batteries with each truck’s Paccar PX-6 diesel engine. The hybrid system relies on regenerative braking to store energy, so every time the driver presses the brake, leftover energy becomes stored to later help launch the vehicle. As a result, the brakes experience less wear and require fewer service intervals.

When the hybrid system engages on the Model 330, Peterbilt says the truck’s 260 horsepower rises to 300 horsepower, and its 620 foot-pounds of torque becomes 860 foot-pounds of torque.

“The Model 330 will see in the neighborhood of 30- to 40-percent fuel economy savings in urban settings,” says Ken Marko, market planning manager, Peterbilt.

The Model 335 incorporates the hybrid electric system for both on-road and stationary PTO applications, relying on the system’s batteries to electrically operate the PTO. According to Peterbilt, the engine will only need to run about 1/6th of the time during bucket operation. It automatically begins to recharge the batteries once they are depleted, which Marko says takes about four and a half to five minutes, and then the engine shuts off.

With the Model 335, drivers can expect around an 80-percent improvement in idling times and a 60-percent overall increase in fuel efficiency when configured for utility applications.

While still early in the process, Marko says Peterbilt plans to develop a heavy-duty hybrid truck suited for more regional haul-type applications sometime late next year.