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MIT Research News

April 9, 2019

Engineers develop concept for hybrid heavy-duty trucks

Long-haul trucks with electric motors combined with gas-alcohol engines could slash pollution levels and greenhouse gases.

David L. Chandler | MIT News Office

Heavy-duty trucks, such as the 18-wheelers that transport many of the world’s goods from farm or factory to market, are virtually all powered by diesel engines. They account for a significant portion of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, but little has been done so far to curb their climate-change-inducing exhaust.

Now, researchers at MIT have devised a new way of powering these trucks that could drastically curb pollution, increase efficiency, and reduce or even eliminate their net greenhouse gas emissions.

The concept involves using a plug-in hybrid engine system, in which the truck would be primarily powered by batteries, but with a spark ignition engine (instead of a diesel engine). That engine, which would allow the trucks to conveniently travel the same distances as today’s conventional diesel trucks, would be a flex-fuel model that could run on pure gasoline, pure alcohol, or blends of these fuels.