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Among heavy duty hybrids, Staples goes all-electric

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  October 6, 2009 12:00 AM

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Strolling amidst the alternative energy vehicles on display yesterday at the fifth AltWheels Fleet Day exposition in Framingham, Staples Inc. fleet equipment manager Michael C. Payette almost immediately started talking trash.

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“This may very well be the cleanest refuse truck you've seen in your life,” Payette said, stopping next to a green and white Peterbilt dump truck.

As Peterbilt district sales manager Bob Moreau explained, the trash hauler uses a “hydraulic launch assist” system. It stores pressure when the brakes are applied, then uses that force to propel the truck forward. In a truck that starts and stops constantly - up to 1,200 times a day - that conserves a lot of gas.

“You're saving two brake jobs a year,” Moreau said, “and [up to] 25 percent of the fuel.”

Also on display were more than 50 cars and trucks, many powered by electricity, compressed natural gas, or lithium-ion batteries.

electric-crane.jpg

(Glenn Gould/Boston.com)

High up in an Eaton Class 6 hybrid bucket truck.

Payette paused to tout the latest addition to the Staples fleet of 2,200 vehicles: an electrically powered delivery truck painted with the message, “Happiness is never having to stop for fuel.”

“I've been waiting an exciting five years for this,” said Payette, who delivered the keynote address at yesterday's expo.

staples-electric-truck.jpg

(Glenn Gould/Boston.com)

A Smith electric truck used in the Staples fleet can travel up to 100 miles.

Payette said he is constantly looking for ways to improve the Staples fleet, using hybrid fuel vehicles, electric cars, and other technologies.

“It's hard to create one vehicle and one mode of fueling that vehicle that works in every application,” he explained.

In his speech, Payette told attendees, “Don't wait for the perfect system. Pick the one that will give you what you want and just get started.”

ecitycars.jpg

(Glenn Gould/Boston.com)

The Chinese all-electric Miles ZX40S is certified as a low-speed "neighborhood electric vehicle."

altwheels-mercedes-ml450h.jpg

(Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff)

A Mercedes ML450h hybrid uses the "2-mode" system co-developed by Daimler, BMW, GM, and Chrysler.

mercedes-s400h.jpg

(Glenn Gould/Boston.com)

Another pre-production hybrid Mercedes, the S400h, is a "mild" hybrid but is the first of its kind to use lithium-ion batteries. Pricing is expected to start at $90,000 for this 30-plus MPG luxury car.

altwheels-cng-beetle.jpg

(Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff)

Robert Mann, of Bob Mann's Auto Conversions, shows off his natural gas Volkswagen Beetle.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
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Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
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