Electric cooperatives across the country are investigating and demonstrating the ways bucket trucks with electric power take-off (ePTO) are an attainable first step in utility fleet electrification that can lower fuel costs and emissions while providing a safer and more reliable experience for lineworkers.
Adams Electric Cooperative, serving 33,000 members in South Central Pennsylvania, piloted the first-of-its-kind bucket truck equipped with an ePTO in the late 2000s. While the first-generation ePTO bucket truck had some challenges, mainly with its untested control system, the core lift technology worked well.
“We wanted to test the technology to see how it could help our operations while reducing the negative environmental impacts of idling a diesel engine for hours each day,” Adams Electric Cooperative CEO and General Manager Steve Rasmussen explained. “Our lineworkers liked the reduced noise level and elimination of exhaust fumes while working on the jobsite, but didn’t care for the rolling billboard and the extra attention it drew to them.”
Bucket trucks with ePTO systems use battery storage to power boom operation and the cab’s heating and cooling without using the diesel engine. The hybrid approach provides a redundant way to power the boom, increases crew safety, reduces fuel costs and lowers emissions.
“Electric PTOs on bucket trucks may be the low-hanging fruit for utility fleet electrification,” CFC Vice President of Industry Research and Consulting Mark Schneider said. “The ePTO technology is relatively mature at this stage with numerous options from the leading bucket truck manufacturers.”
Fairport Electric, a municipal serving 18,000 customers in upstate New York, began using ePTO trucks in the early 2010s to lower cost of ownership, reduce maintenance and meet the sustainability goals of its community.
“Our bucket truck fleet is now 50 percent ePTO, and we will continue to buy ePTO trucks as our older vehicles reach the end of their useful life,” Fairport Electric Superintendent Matt Hegarty said. “It’s important to match your first ePTO bucket truck to crew members who are interested, open minded and technically savvy. The new vehicles operate a little differently and there’s a learning curve.”
The municipal utility leveraged the positive experience of its early adopters by sharing the benefits of using the new system. Fairport Electric lineworkers liked the quietness of the electric system and found it much easier to communicate with each other on the jobsite, increasing safety.
“We’re starting to see more electric cooperatives begin pilot programs as it may be the most cost-effective step for them to take toward utility fleet electrification. At the end of the day, each purchasing decision is based on meeting the needs of their members, lineworker safety and emission goals,” Schneider added.