Hybrids really come into their own where you have a highly intermittent load profile, with frequent shifts between low and peak loads. A classic example of this is the hybrid train propulsion, with trains entering and leaving stations under electric power, then using a combination of diesel engines and electric motors to accelerate, running economically on level track sections under diesel-only, and converting braking energy into battery power. The peak load can be borne in this instance by the electric motor. But, in my opinion, yachts are also perfect candidates for hybrid propulsion, albeit for reasons of comfort rather than economy, allowing skippers to turn off their diesels – say in scenic coves or anchorages – and maneuver quietly under electrical power. The battery can also be used to cover the high electrical power draw which
a modern yacht has.
And what about agricultural machinery?
You'll see hybrids moving in here too, albeit not immediately. In agri applications, electrical power can be shared very simply among various consumers. I'm thinking here of large combine-harvesters, for example, which have a multitude of hydraulic systems that – bit by bit – are going to be electrified. But this market is much more cost-intensive than rail or marine, and for that reason this trend will take a while to get going.
Will mtu be supplying a fully hybrid system?
Yes, we're going to be offering customers a range of clever all-round solutions in future, featuring not just an engine, but an entire package incorporating advice and guidance, a power delivery system and a long-term maintenance agreement. For customers, this is going to be easier, smarter and more economical overall than self-designed systems where they have to buy, integrate and maintain all the discrete components themselves.
It will soon be 20 years since Toyota unveiled the Prius. Why are hybrids still so few and far between in off-highway applications?
It's true, hybrid cars and buses have been around for a long time now. Indeed, we started delving into this as early as 2006, and we first put a hybrid train on the tracks back in 2012. On the seas, you'll find the first hybrid ships – powered by mtu
. However, until now, economy and ecology have not been great bedfellows, but we're slowly getting to the point where hybrids are paying real dividends. Battery storage capacity is coming down in price all the time, and – as developers – we've learnt a lot in recent years and are now in a position where we're able to offer customers a truly winning proposition.
What's the number one challenge in getting mtu hybrids into full production?
We've already got rail hybrids ready to roll off the production line and are well on our way when it comes to yachts and microgrids – we're just honing the cost model a bit. Interestingly, it's not the tech that's our greatest challenge – a diesel engine is far more complex to develop than a hybrid system – but most of our time recently has been spent getting to grips with how customers want to use our systems, with a view to packaging together all the features and functionality they need. And now we've arrived at the point where we're able to offer them a menu of smart, reliable total solutions for microgrids, propulsion and drive systems, and on-board electrical power generation. Now, it's all about putting ourselves on the radar with reference installations, and convincing customers of the benefits these solutions offer.