Unitil Corporation, a provider of natural gas and electricity delivery service to customers in New England, is continuing its transition to a sustainable fleet by adding more hybrid electric vehicles and launching a program to reduce vehicle idling time.
Following the introduction of its first hybrid bucket truck in early 2022 at its electric operations facility in Exeter, N.H, the company now has nine hybrid pickup trucks operating in New Hampshire and four in Maine. Another five are planned in New Hampshire and six in Maine by the end of the year.
In addition, the company operates one hybrid bucket truck and five hybrid pickup trucks in Massachusetts; six more hybrid pickup trucks and a second hybrid bucket truck are on order for 2023.
The hybrid pickups are Ford F-150s. James A. Kiley Co., a final-stage manufacturer, used a Viatec electric power take-off system and a Freightliner chassis to outfit each of the bucket trucks.
The addition of hybrid trucks is one step Unitil is taking to meet its goal of reducing direct operational carbon emissions by 50% by the year 2030, and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. A single hybrid bucket truck, which uses a rechargeable battery to power its boom, is expected to eliminate an estimated 20 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, which is equivalent to 4.3 gasoline passenger vehicles a year or the annual energy use of 2.5 households.
The company also launched an idle mitigation program in New Hampshire using technology that eliminates unnecessary idling by automatically shutting down the engine when the vehicle is in park, while continuing to provide all required power. The technology is expected to reduce the annual idle time by approximately 92% and lead to annual fuel savings for the five fleet vehicles chosen for the program.
“Idling is a necessary reality in the utility industry. Oftentimes the engine stays on and the vehicle idles because workers need to operate electronics, power equipment and emergency lighting, and run heat and air conditioning,” says Alec O’Meara, Unitil media relations manager. “Although the pilot program began just a few months ago, the early results have been favorable.”
Those results have shown that decreased idling on a medium-duty pickup truck in the idle mitigation program has lowered emissions by approximately 40% annually for that vehicle, or a reduction of approximately six metric tons of carbon dioxide.
If data continues to show favorable carbon reduction results, the company plans to have five additional vehicles equipped with idling mitigation technology in New Hampshire and two additional vehicles in Maine later this year. To further reduce emissions, the company also plans to add two compressed natural gas/gasoline bi-fuel duty pickup trucks to its fleet in the Concord, N.H., region this year as well.