The Oak Ridge Electric Department has a new hybrid bucket truck that uses quiet electricity rather than noisy diesel to power its bucket boom, making it easier for workers to communicate and reducing emissions and neighborhood noise.
Workers said the electric-powered boom is as fast as traditional diesel-powered booms, and the improved worker communications with the new, quieter booms helps them stay safe.
“It’s been a great thing for us,” Oak Ridge Electric Department Director Jack Suggs said. “The linemen really like it.”
Officials said the city’s Electric Department is one of several local power companies partnering with the Tennessee Valley Authority to bring energy-efficient, hybrid electric-powered bucket trucks to the Tennessee Valley. The new trucks are funded in part by a grant from TVA, the Electric Power Research Institute, and the U.S. Department of Energy. Oak Ridge received one plug-in hybrid bucket truck in October and is awaiting delivery of a plug-in hybrid pickup truck.
“Thanks to this grant, local power companies such as Oak Ridge are able to purchase these advanced technology trucks for about the same cost as a regular bucket truck, yet they are much more environmentally friendly,” said DeJim Lowe, interim director of TVA Technology Innovation. “The hybrid trucks diminish vehicle emissions, use less fuel, and reduce operational costs.”
TVA paid $60,000 for the plug-in hybrid portion of the $214,000 bucket truck. TVA is also paying up to $2,500 each for three charging stations. Two have already been installed.
Data about the truck’s diesel and electric use will be recorded and given to EPRI for analysis. Officials said there could be a 50 percent reduction in fuel use.
The hybrid truck does not electricity for its propulsion system. Suggs said power generated when the driver applies the brakes will help recharge the batteries.
Lineman Michael Goodpaster said the new truck is very quiet when parked on the job. And the telescoping boom, which has an elbow and is good for getting into tight areas, operates at the same speed, he said.
“I can’t tell the difference,” Goodpaster said.
The truck’s boom also has a jib and winch system that can be used to lift parts like transformers and a bucket elevator that workers can use to adjust their position by as much as two feet.
TVA said 17 of the utilities it serves are receiving the plug-in hybrid system, including 12 in Tennessee, two in Mississippi, two in Alabama, and one in Kentucky. Other participating utilities in East Tennessee are Knoxville Utilities Board and Bristol Tennessee Essential Services.
A total of 53 hybrid trucks will be distributed: 27 medium-duty bucket trucks and diggers, and 26 light-duty pickups and vans.
As part of the program, electric charging stations have been installed in two locations in the Oak Ridge area. One is where the bucket truck is housed. The other location is in the customer parking lot at the city’s Central Services Complex at 100 Woodbury Lane. The public charger will be open and free for use for five years. TVA is providing these charging stations to participating utilities and will provide partial funding for installations.
TVA said the project is part of its pledge to improve air quality in the region. The public utility said the trucks with the plug-in hybrid system can achieve up to 50 percent improvement in fuel economy when compared with trucks using traditional diesel- or gasoline-fueled engines. Fuel savings come not only while driving, but also when the truck’s onboard rechargeable electric batteries are used to operate its boom. Since the boom is nearly silent, crews can more easily communicate with each other, supporting Oak Ridge and TVA’s safety initiatives.
“Safety is always a top priority in whatever we do,” Suggs said. “Now the crew member in the bucket truck and the people on the ground can communicate clearly. That gives us an added layer of safety while giving us the opportunity to reduce the amount of vehicle emissions in the area.”
To achieve anticipated net improvements in emissions, Oak Ridge has decommissioned comparable-sized vehicles in its fleet as approved by TVA.
The city of Oak Ridge provides electric, water, and waste water services to its 29,500 customers in Anderson and Roane Counties.
The Tennessee Valley Authority is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity for business customers and local power distributors serving nine million people in parts of seven southeastern states.