Hybrid electric powertrain for long-haul trucks and buses: Preliminary analysis of a new concept based on a combined cycle power plant

Juan S. Bahamonde, C.M. de Servi, Piero Colonna

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The electric hybridization of heavy-duty road vehicles is a promising alternative to reduce the environmental impact of freight and passengers transportation. Employing a micro gas turbine as a prime mover offers several advantages: high power density, fuel flexibility, ultra-low emissions (without the need of exhaust after-treatment), low vibrations and noise, simplicity and lower maintenance cost. State-of-the-art micro gas turbines feature an efficiency of 30%, which can be increased to 40% by employing a mini organic Rankine cycle system as a bottoming power plant. Such a combined-cycle powertrain could achieve considerably higher efficiency with next-gen micro gas turbines and mini ORC systems, especially with an R&D push of the automotive sector. This paper presents the analysis of a hybrid electric heavy-duty vehicle with a prime mover based on this concept. The assessment was performed in two steps: (i) preliminary design of the combined cycle power plant, and (ii) estimation of the vehicle fuel economy and of the emissions over a representative driving cycle. The best combined cycle system stemming from the design exercise features an estimated peak efficiency of 44%, and a nominal power output of about 150 kW. This corresponds to the power demand at cruise condition of a long-haul truck (weight approx. 36 ton). A series configuration with Lithium-Ion batteries was selected for the hybrid powertrain, for it decouples the prime mover dynamics from the power demand. The benchmark is a vehicle featuring a next generation diesel engine, with a peak efficiency equal to 50%. The results show that the fuel economy can be largely improved by increasing the size of the battery in the hybrid powertrain. Furthermore, employing natural gas in the prime mover of the hybrid vehicle leads to ultra-low emissions that are well below the limits set by European and north American regulations, without the need of exhaust gas aftertreatment. Additionally, the CO2 emissions of the hybrid powertrain are considerably lower than that of the benchmark. The work documented here thus demonstrates the potential of this hybrid powertrain concept, especially in terms of exhaust emissions, as a promising transition technology towards the full electrification of the powertrain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-79
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Global Power and Propulsion Society
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • organic Rankine cycle
  • combined cycle
  • truck
  • Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV)
  • powertrain


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