Alternative energy technology is being utilized by U.S. businesses more often than most people realize. On a recent trip to the Minnesota Science Museum, I spotted a strange-looking vehicle created by Eden Prairie High School technology students that was a labeled as a “hydraulic hybrid.” Having never heard of this technology, I did more research on the Internet and found out that major corporations such as UPS and Coca Cola already have hydraulic hybrid trucks in their fleets. For large trucks that start and stop frequently, the technology works well. Presently some of the components are rather large, so installed systems are more frequently seen in trucks than in automobiles, but testing with automobiles is being done also, some of it at the University of Minnesota. Compared to electric hybrid technology, this can be cheaper, as expensive batteries are not needed. Since energy is captured during braking, the brakes on these trucks may last several times as long and save considerably on maintenance costs. Basically how the system works is when the vehicle is braking, a pump attached to the axle transfers hydraulic fluid from a low-pressure reservoir to a high-pressure accumulator. The fluid compresses nitrogen gas in the high-pressure accumulator. Hydraulic hybrid systems can capture more than double the energy that electric hybrid systems capture during braking. This pressure is then used to get the vehicle moving again, which is where much of the fuel savings comes in. There are two basic types of systems: series and parallel. The parallel system connects with the existing transmission and drive train. In a series system, the normal transmission and drive train are replaced with hydraulic components that are a more efficient method and require fewer components. The engine can be shut off at times and run at a more efficient speed with the series-type system. If you are as interested in this technology as I was, I suggest searching on the Internet for “hydraulic hybrid.” Bill Kuhl
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