The bucket trucks are "trouble trucks," the first vehicles to arrive on the scene in the event of an emergency or service interruption. 
 -  Photo: PG&E

The bucket trucks are "trouble trucks," the first vehicles to arrive on the scene in the event of an emergency or service interruption.

Photo: PG&E

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) continues its efforts to protect the environment and reduce its carbon emissions with the purchase of just under 100 hybrid-electric bucket trucks that were delivered at the end of 2010, and has ordered an additional 125 units that will deliver in the first half of 2011. Of the company's 12,000-vehicle fleet, 3,072 already run on alternative fuel or are on order.

PG&E has been working to reduce its carbon footprint for the past 15 years, contributing to the development of natural gas, plug-in, and hybrid vehicles throughout its own fleet and with other vehicles within the community such as school buses, and taxi cabs, and passenger cars. The addition of these hybrid-electric bucket trucks is another step in the "green" direction.

Developing in the Right  Direction

PG&E operates throughout a 75,000-square-mile service territory, ranging from north of Los Angeles to the northern California border. The San ­Francisco-based company replaces 500 to 1,600 vehicles annually, but it expects to be on the higher end of the range for the next several years.

The bucket trucks are built on Ford F-550 chassis with Altec AT37 aerial devices that will be powered by JEMS48 hybrid units.

"We selected this application for various reasons, but primarily due to the vehicle's duty cycle. The operation of the aerial device, tool circuit, and climate control in the cab are the primary contributors to the idling issue, and this system was designed to help eliminate that," said Dave Meisel, director of transportation services, PG&E.

The trucks are shut off once they arrive at the worksite, and the systems are then battery-powered. PG&E expects the battery to last a normal operating shift, but in the event the battery was to run low, the vehicle will automatically restart to power the circuits and recharge the battery.

While always looking for new alternatives and ideas on how to better the environment, Meisel recognizes that there must always be a balance between the type of "green" vehicle and the function it will perform.

"You need to understand the application when applying vehicles and fuel to certain situations," he said. "There must be an alignment between the application of our technology and the product."

A Richer Future

The goal of PG&E is to provide operators with safe, reliable, and cost-effective equipment while continuing its fleet greening efforts. "This purchase, while significant, is the first of many that will continue to show PG&E's environmental leadership. We believe that through technology, we can improve our environment while reducing our operating costs," Meisel said.

PG&E expects the use of hybrid-electric bucket trucks will reduce fleet operating costs, enhance operator safety, and produce cleaner emissions.

For the future, PG&E will be pushing toward purchasing plug-in hybrids that have been adapted for pickup trucks and SUVs. "A major initiative in our operation today is to electrify our fleet, and by doing so use clean energy to power clean vehicles. There is no better time for us to influence this process and to encourage others to adopt clean technologies," Meisel said.