Eaton touts safety of hybrid power

Addressing any concerns fleet owners might have regarding the use of high-voltage electrical propulsion on commercial vehicles, Eaton Corp. on Feb. 3 outlined the safety features of its new hybrid-electric power systems at the Technology and Maintenance Council meeting in Orlando.

“All of the components were selected and specified to provide safety for not only the driver, but also for any technician who might be working on the vehicle, and even for motorists and others who might be involved in an accident with a hybrid vehicle,” says Shane Groner, technical service manager – North America for Roadranger Marketing. (Roadranger Marketing is a joint initiative of Eaton and Dana Corp.)

“The bottom line is this – hybrid power is as safe as any other power source,” Groner says. “It’s just different, and calls for different training and product support.”

All high-voltage components are totally isolated from the 12-volt system, and high-voltage cables were purposely placed outside of the vehicle’s cab and enclosed to safeguard the operator and passengers. Also, high-voltage cables and connectors are bright orange, signaling caution to trained technicians and emergency response professionals and others who might respond to an accident.

Batteries and all other high-voltage systems are fully sealed and inaccessible without the proper tools, Groner says. Vehicles equipped with Eaton’s hybrid power systems also include a Limp Home capability, which prevents continued operation of the hybrid components during a system malfunction while eliminating the need for towing.

In addition, regenerative braking and anti-lock braking systems (ABS) are linked via the SAE J1939 datalink so that the hybrid system does not have any negative impact on the vehicle during an ABS event.

Groner noted that the Eaton hybrid safety program also includes an unprecedented nationwide program devoted to training emergency response officials. “We provide training to first responders with onsite training sessions, through printed materials, as well as online and through computer-based training,” he says. “Everything is widely distributed through OEMs and customers.”

Eaton also is chairing a TMC committee to issue a paper on “safe service procedures for servicing high-voltage systems.”