Riverside, California – A new, first-of-its-kind two-year study will evaluate the emission reduction benefits of hybrid construction vehicles.

Scientists at the University of California’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology have received a US$2 million contract from the California Air Resources Board to study two commercially-available hybrid vehicles, a Caterpillar bulldozer and Kamatsu hydraulic excavator.

“Hybrid construction vehicles are just now becoming available,” said Kent Johnson, principal investigator on the project. “We have been asked to use our emissions testing experience to quantify what their benefit is.”

The project is the latest in a nearly 20-year history of emissions testing at the centre. Initial research focused on cars in a stationary setting, while later projects shifted to trucks and on-the-road testing. Today much of the work is done with portable emission measurement systems, which have been used in such applications as on- and off-road vehicles, locomotives, aircraft and ships.

The new study is part of a larger effort by the Air Resources Board to expand the use of hybrid technology to help meet the goals of a state law that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, which is about a 30 per cent reduction, and a further 80 per cent reduction below 1990 levels by 2050.

Little is known about the potential benefits of hybrid technologies for construction equipment because of its unique and diverse duty cycles. Johnson said that manufacturers are claiming that the hybrid units reduce fuel consumption by 20 per cent and emissions by 30 per cent.

The funding will be divided into an incentive voucher to get 20 to 30 hybrid construction vehicles in use, and to funding to test six vehicles that will be scattered throughout California. The researchers intend to design standardized tests which will help establish the methodology for making comparisons under the varied conditions that construction vehicles experience.

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