Battery-Powered Trucks a Big Lift for SCE Workers, Environment

Fleet investment in electric vehicles is in line with the company’s commitment to clean-energy technologies.

Southern California Edison is investing in a new generation of environmentally friendly service trucks whose overhead lifts are powered by the same kind of batteries used in plug-in electric cars.

SCE recently took delivery of two of the lithium-ion-battery-equipped troubleman trucks — so named because they are used by troublemen, experts who are dispatched to investigate the causes of power outages — and 22 more are on the way.

“This purchase is part of SCE’s commitment to electric transportation, which is one facet of our overall vision for a modern grid that will support consumer use of clean-energy technologies and help California meet its clean-energy goals,” said Laura Renger, SCE principal manager of Environmental Affairs and Compliance. “At SCE, we’re not just encouraging others to consider electric vehicles, we’re leading by example.”

The new system allows troublemen to fully shut down the truck’s engine while work is being done, making the trucks safer, quieter, more fuel efficient and better for the environment. The batteries also allow the trucks’ air conditioning, lights and two-way radios to be operated while the engine is turned off.

Without batteries, the lift’s hydraulic system would be powered by the truck’s transmission, requiring the vehicle to idle during operation.

This year, SCE anticipates spending 20 percent of its annual fleet budget on plug-in electric vehicles, according to Todd Carlson, SCE principal manager of Fleet Management. SCE has more than 400 troubleman trucks in its fleet that could potentially use the new lithium-ion battery system, as well as nearly 300 larger bucket trucks used by repair crews. A few of the larger trucks with a similar battery system have also been added to SCE’s fleet.

“These trucks will not have to idle their engines for the first few hours that crews are working, leading to reduced fuel consumption, lower emissions and reduced wear and tear on engines,” Carlson said, noting that the trucks are also equipped with stop-start technology to automatically turn off the engine five seconds after they are put in park.  

“Elimination of engine noise also makes working conditions safer and improves worker communication — and customers appreciate the quieter job site operation, too,” he added.

The new model replaced a less efficient and more cumbersome lead-acid battery system previously offered. Prototypes were tested at SCE’s Electric Vehicle Testing Center in Pomona.