Full-size vans and other commercial vehicles spend more time on the road than the average passenger car.
But often the public pays little attention to ways their fuel consumption--and hence their emissions--can be reduced. Nor are there any hybrid trucks offered by the largest makers.
Yet every capability a stock vehicle lacks is an opportunity for a new business niche, as one company is finding.
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XL Hybrids makes aftermarket hybrid systems for General Motors full-size vans, and the recently discontinued Ford E-Series.
Now, it's expanding its offerings to the new Ford Transit van that replaces the E-Series (once known as the Econoline).
XL unveiled a Transit hybrid conversion at the Ford Fleet Preview in Arlington, Texas.
2015 Ford Transit
The conversion includes a lithium-ion battery pack and an electric motor, which is used to supplement the gasoline engine.
XL Hybrids claims a 20-percent increase in fuel economy, as well as a corresponding 20-percent decrease in carbon-dioxide emissions.
All of the equipment bolts in aft of the transmission, adding less than 400 pounds with no impact on passenger or cargo space.
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The Transit's unibody construction makes it more difficult to modify than traditional body-on-frame vans, XL chief technology officer Dr. Edward Lovelace said, but the compactness of the hybrid system makes conversions more straightforward.
The hybrid system requires just six hours to install, the company says.
Conversion kits are available for both gasoline Transit engines--the 3.7-liter naturally-aspirated V-6, and 3.5-liter turbocharged EcoBoost V-6.
2015 Ford Transit
The Transit is also offered with a 3.2-liter five-cylinder PowerStroke diesel engine--the only five-cylinder turbodiesel sold in the U.S.
The Ford factory warranty remains intact, while XL covers its components with a three-year, 75,000-mile warranty.
XL believes its fairly simple system will win over commercial buyers who want increased fuel economy with minimal complications.
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The company points out that its hybrids don't require any added infrastructure--such as charging stations or natural-gas fueling stations--needed for plug-in or alternative-fuel vehicles.
This also allows companies to quickly add hybrids to an existing fleet of conventional vehicles, XL says.
All of these factors should be encouraging for fleets, whose pursuit of greater efficiency is always just a means to increased profitability.