Adams Electric Cooperative lineman gets a bird's eye view of the new PHEV bucket truck.
Photo credit: Michael Kahn.
By Michael Kahn | This article is reprinted with permission from ECT.coop.
They all know how to operate a bucket truck. So when Adams Electric Cooperative bought a new one, why did the co-op send all of its linemen back to class? Because this is no ordinary bucket truck.
The co-op owns the first production unit plug-in hybrid electric model, and before anyone could put it to work, everyone had to take a course in how to use it.
At a district office just up the road from Adams’ headquarters here, the linemen gathered May 1 to hear all about the new arrival.
“That is one beautiful truck,” proclaimed Denny Geary, territory manager for Wisconsin-based Dueco, a supplier of aerial devices and digger derricks.
Dueco and New York-based Odyne, a developer of PHEV power trains, teamed up to build these trucks.
Over the next 90 minutes, Gus Sfakianos, executive vice president at Odyne, explained the mechanics of the PHEV system, which adds about 3,500 pounds to the chassis, and stressed the safety features that include three ways to shut the system off.
Charging the truck is also safe. “When you plug in, the control node in the charge port system recognizes that it’s plugged in. It communicates with the charging station,” Sfakianos said. Both elements go through a checklist, and once everything has been checked off, the charging begins.
“If there is a fault condition on the vehicle, it will not charge. If there is a fault condition on the AC side, it will not charge,” he told the group.
“And no one will be stranded. The system was designed so that if the Odyne fails, everything still works” off diesel, Sfakianos added.
“When you’re driving the vehicle, operating it, you will notice it’s what you’re used to: you turn the key, you start it, put it in drive and take off. There’s nothing special for you to do.”
Finally, it was time for the moment of truth. As everyone looked at each other, apprentice lineman Michael Johnson stepped forward to become the first to test the rig. After donning his safety gear, Johnson climbed into the bucket and made co-op history.
Following several minutes of putting the bucket to the test, Johnson returned to the ground and proclaimed that except for the controls being a bit different, “It’s just like any other truck.”
Journeyman lineman Craig Mummert was up next and he, too, found it similar to other trucks. But he said the real test was yet to come.
“We need to take it out all day and see how it runs,” Mummert said. “But everything electric on it seems to function the same way as it would if you had the regular engine running. It seems to have the same power.”
For Adams, the PHEV has numerous benefits.
“The more you plug it in, the less fuel you will consume the next day,”
Sfakianos noted. “And depending on how you use it, you can save as much as one and a half gallons an hour.”
That’s music to the ears of Marvin Snyder, Shippensburg District line superintendent for Adams.
“The expenses of running a fleet our size has all but tripled,” he said. “We run mostly diesel. We keep trying to buy fuel efficient gas vehicles, but with diesel you’re up against it. There’s not much you can do with that.”
Snyder also liked the sounds of silence coming from the truck when it operates on battery with the diesel engine off. He sees a safety benefit for the linemen.
“Whenever they’re on the ground they won’t have the noise of the diesel, they won’t have to be yelling from a 40-foot pole down to the ground.”
Geary noted the environmental benefits: “In the operations mode you’re absolutely emitting no diesel fumes whatsoever. It’s running off the electric battery pack.”