Norman Thoday, Dennis Eagle's MD, explains the background to the new strategic alliance with BAE Systems which has been set up to develop hybrid technology and bring to market a serious alternative for his customers.

The need to make environmental and financial savings is currently one of the biggest challenges facing the waste and recycling industry, and vehicle manufacturers have a pivotal role to play in helping customers deliver greater efficiency. Dennis Eagle has a strong history of innovation and is continually developing its product portfolio to help operators adapt to the requirements of a changing market.

Earlier this year, the company entered into an agreement with BAE Systems, a manufacturer of hybrid drive systems, to work together to integrate a heavy duty hybrid electric propulsion system into one of its low entry cab vehicles. A field trial programme will take place later in the year, with a view to launching HybriDrive powered vehicles to the market in late 2012.

LAPV spoke to the company's managing director, Norman Thoday, to find out how the alliance was formed and what it will mean for customers.

“Dennis Eagle has always had a history of innovation. We are not a mass market producer and operate in a niche market. To thrive in this industry it is therefore absolutely vital that we develop new products. This agreement was formed as a result of listening to our customers, as well as a desire to enhance the sustainability of our vehicles and help the industry meet future challenges. Many of our customers had expressed the need for an alternative system that could run on more than fossil fuels, and we recognised that this was something the market wants and needs.

“Choosing a partner who could help us deliver such a solution was vital. BAE Systems has a huge amount of systems integration experience working with hybrid technology, as well as a proven track record. They already have a successful relationship with Guildford based Alexander Dennis, the UK's leading bus and coach manufacturer and, while the system we'll be using in our refuse collection vehicles is different to that used in buses, the basic concept will essentially be the same.

“BAE Systems' propulsion and power management technology for commercial hybrid electric driveline systems is tried and tested. It has been used in mass transit transportation systems since 2003 and is proven to deliver significant savings, so we are confident that the technology can successfully be adapted for use in the refuse collection vehicle market.

“Our new system is based on parallel hybrid technology for heavy-duty vocational applications and is currently being trialled to determine performance levels and capabilities when it comes to the stop/start nature of refuse collection rounds.

“The main benefit is the on-board electrical system, which works in conjunction with a self-propelled diesel hybrid engine. The engine power is equal to a normal standard 26-tonne refuse collection vehicle, which is ample for coping with hilly areas. Also, as it is selfpropelled, it saves a considerable amount of time when dealing with a fleet of vehicles with no need for overnight charging.

“Looking at the technology from the driver's perspective, the biggest advantage is probably that he or she will have a quieter environment when the vehicle is in electric mode. The crew and members of the public will also notice a definite reduction in noise. This will be particularly beneficial for night time collections, which have always been an issue for refuse vehicles operating in residential areas of towns or city centres. In terms of the general efficiency of the electric motor, it is actually a quicker and smoother vehicle for accelerating away at the start. In addition, linear acceleration and smoother shifting will make the ride much more comfortable for the driver and crew.

“Further to this, the vehicle will also have new advanced fuel efficient technologies and therefore lower operating costs, an important consideration in light of the fact that fuel prices are continuing to rise. At this stage it's difficult to be specific in terms of expected emission reductions. However, we're hoping that the new system will save up to 20 % When you consider that a refuse vehicle can use up to £20,000 of fuel per year, this adds up to a considerable saving over time ' up to £100,000 annually for a fleet of 25 trucks. The exact savings will depend on the nature of the collection route, as you will find that fuel consumption will be different on an inner-city round in London compared to, for instance, a collection in rural and less densely-populated areas such as mid Wales.

“We'll know more following the completion of the trials currently being undertaken by BAE Systems and our own field trials which will take place after the RWM show in September. We will control these trials and ideally we will be looking for them to take place locally to our Warwick headquarters so we can monitor progress as closely as possible.

“At the trials, a direct comparison will be made with a normal Euro 5 engine refuse vehicle combination. Any testing we do will put the same crew and the same size and shape refuse body on the same collection rounds so we can obtain a direct comparison. This process will also provide an excellent opportunity to obtain customer feedback so we can be sure that the system we launch meets the market's exacting requirements.

“This is a really exciting opportunity because we have found a partner that has a proven track record, with experience in specialist technology for a wide range of sectors. It's a great project with real potential and we're looking forward to working with BAE Systems to develop the hybrid technology and bring it to market. It will offer customers a serious alternative which will play an important role in future-proofing the industry against the challenges it faces over the coming years.

“I strongly believe this product is exactly what the marketplace is currently after, especially with the escalating costs in fuel and the need to operate services in a more sustainable manner. It will bring many environmental benefits associated with fewer emissions, reduced fuel consumption and lower noise pollution for customers, operators and the communities in which the vehicles operate. Any premiums will be covered across the lifetime of the product, as both parties were clear from the outset that the system should offer customers an affordable and viable solution. We're working hard to make this a success and look forward to moving a step closer to the launch with the trials later this year.”