To launch its single-stream recycling program, Ann Arbor, Mich., officials didn't have to look far to find a solution that could save money and fuel.

In July, the city became the first in Michigan to purchase hydraulic hybrid trucks, built using technology pioneered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor. Used for recycling collection, these garbage trucks don't store energy in batteries like most hybrid cars. Instead, the new hybrid system stores braking energy in hydraulic fluid, which then propels the trucks at initial acceleration. This makes the technology ideal for heavy-duty vehicles that do a lot of stop-and-go driving, such as shuttle buses and garbage trucks, because it boosts efficiency and keeps costs low.

"There are more options than ever before to help people, businesses and government save money at the pump, reduce our dependence on oil and improve air quality," according to Sean Reed, founder and executive director of the nonprofit Clean Energy Coalition (CEC), an organization dedicated to expanding clean energy technologies in the state. "The role we take is to try to secure the funding necessary to make these things a total no-brainer."

With a $40,000 price tag per truck, the solution wasn't cheap. But on behalf of Ann Arbor, the CEC secured a subgrant of about $156,000 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to cover those costs, Reed said.

"There are CECs all around that can help other municipalities as well," said James W. Parks, manager of communications for Eaton Corp., which manufactured the Hydraulic Launch Assist (HLA) system added to the trucks. "It's certainly helpful when there are incentives for the end-user."

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Russell Nichols  |  Staff Writer