Special Delivery

(L.-r.) Altec representative Paul Flick demonstrates features of the new truck for FirstEnergy’s Phil Zablocky and Jerry Mason. Altec is the distributor of the trucks.

January 15, 2021

Though it didn’t come by sleigh or squeeze down a chimney, it’s safe to assume it felt like a gift when FirstEnergy’s very first hybrid bucket truck was delivered – right on time for the holiday season.

The truck’s arrival at Ohio Edison’s Fairlawn Service Center in early December marked a significant milestone in the company’s plan to electrify 30% of our 3,400 light duty and aerial fleet vehicles by 2030, with a goal of reaching 100% electrification by 2050.

Prior to being purchased, the hybrid utility truck was fully vetted by FirstEnergy management and employees during a rigorous six-month evaluation process that involved testing the trucks in different climates, terrain and working conditions across our operating companies to ensure it provided top-notch performance and safety features.

“It’s exciting to see the first truck onsite and witness the beginning of FirstEnergy’s large-scale effort to reduce emissions while supporting transportation electrification in our service area,” said Phil Zablocky, director, Energy Delivery Operations Support. “We’re confident these new vehicles will provide the equipment and safety features our crews are accustomed to, as well as many other benefits.”

Besides providing a boost to the environment, the switch to hybrid utility trucks delivers safety enhancements for both employees and customers – provided by a plug-in lithium hybrid battery. The battery is used to power aerial bucket hydraulics and operate the vehicle’s heating and cooling systems. The vehicle interior is cooled or warmed, depending on the season, by the battery to maintain a comfortable cabin temperature for employees to return to when the job is done.

“On work sites, these trucks do not idle like diesel vehicles would,” said Jerry Mason, manager, Energy Delivery Fleet Services. “There are also no fumes created. The air quality control is much better. And the truck is very quiet while running, making it much easier for crews to communicate with each other – no shouting over engine noise required.”

In addition to reducing emissions, the truck’s idle mitigation feature helps extend vehicle life, eliminate certain maintenance expenses and cut fuel costs over time. Truck manufacturers estimate that utility vehicles idle in park for about 65% of their total engine hours, and an hour of engine idle time is equivalent to completing 25 miles of drive time.

The hybrid trucks will need to be charged at least once a week to achieve full performance.

The first hybrid utility bucket truck purchased by FirstEnergy arrived at Fairlawn Service Center in early December.

Jerry explains: “Most of the time, the vehicle self-charges up to 80% while being driven from job site to job site. The truck runs off an electric power take off (PTO) system, called a Jobsite Energy Management System (JEMS), but it contains a standard diesel PTO mode as well. If the hybrid battery ever gets too low, which could happen during a storm or large restoration effort, the diesel will kick in to provide backup power.”

The truck is also equipped with a sophisticated telemetric system that will consistently collect data on the amount of emissions, fuel and engine hours saved, as well as the time the battery was charged, utilized or overridden, should the operator forgo hybrid mode for the diesel setting. This information is then transmitted to the fleet managers and Corporate Fleet Services for review.

FirstEnergy has placed an order for 55 new hybrid bucket and pickup trucks, to be delivered sometime this year across most of our utility companies. While an official distribution schedule has not yet been set, each company will receive hybrid vehicles as older company trucks are retired according to FirstEnergy’s replacement policy.

Additionally, Jerry’s team is putting a plan together to install designated quick charging stations for the hybrid trucks at company facilities.

“The quick chargers will be designed to get these vehicles charged and ready to go within a 45-minute timeframe,” said Jerry. “Employees can expect to start seeing these trucks in use during the second quarter of this year.”