Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation Launches ecoFRED™, the First Hybrid-Electric Chassis in the Class A Motorhome Market

LOUISVILLE, Ky.–In an effort to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy for its customers, Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (FCCC) today introduced at the National RV Trade Show the first hybrid-electric Class A motorhome chassis in the industry. Preliminary prototype testing of the innovative ecoFRED™ chassis shows significant improvements in fuel economy compared with traditional gas pullers.

Fulfilling the tagline "Driven by You," the ecoFRED prototype was engineered to address environmental and fuel-savings priorities identified by FCCC’s motorhome customers. ecoFRED also is in line with Daimler AG’s (Daimler) "Shaping Future Transportation" global initiative focused on reducing pollutants and fuel consumption.

Equipped with the Eaton® hybrid-electric system, ecoFRED features all the attributes FCCC customers have come to expect from the FRED™ motorhome chassis.

ecoFRED, so named because of its increased fuel economy and ecological/ environmental benefits, has the additional benefits of significantly less brake wear due to regenerative braking, leading to lower replacement costs. It also boasts better acceleration and increased towing capacity, and operates similar to driving an automatic transmission.

"Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation designed and engineered ecoFRED to address our customers’ needs and desired fuel economy improvements," said Jonathan Randall, director of sales and marketing for FCCC. "ecoFRED offers reduced exhaust emissions leading toward a cleaner environment, requires less fuel to operate and has an improved brake life, all of which contribute to better overall performance and a reduced operational cost for our customers."

Fleetwood Enterprises, Inc. and Winnebago Industries each built prototype coaches on ecoFRED and are showing them here at the National RV Trade Show at the Kentucky Exposition Center.

"The Fleetwood Hybrid concept vehicle built on the ecoFRED chassis exemplifies our ongoing commitment to bring new innovations to our dealers and customers," said Paul Eskritt, president of Fleetwood’s RV Group. "This commitment is highlighted by the long-standing relationships we have with suppliers like FCCC which continue to provide innovations to the industry with the newest technological advancements."

Bob Olson, Winnebago Industries chairman, CEO and president added, "Winnebago Industries has a rich tradition of creating innovative fuel-efficient motorhomes, and we’re pleased to have partnered with Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation on developing the ecoFRED chassis concept used in our Winnebago Adventurer Hybrid concept vehicle."

Olson noted, "We're also excited that our Adventurer Hybrid has the industry's first ecoFRED chassis equipped with an Auxiliary Power Generation (APG) unit that senses hybrid battery power levels and automatically engages the coach's engine to charge the batteries."

Chassis Provides Seamless Operation
ecoFRED, which features a diesel engine coupled with an electric motor/generator and lithium-ion batteries, works in line with the transmission, enabling seamless operation incorporating both electric and diesel power.

The lithium-ion batteries featured on the hybrid system capture and store energy during the regenerative braking phase of the vehicle’s operation. The batteries are constantly charged through the operation of the diesel engine, eliminating the need to plug into an electrical source. Both the diesel engine and the electric motor can provide power to the drivetrain. The sophisticated hybrid supervisory controller selects the most efficient mode of operation – diesel, electric or both – depending upon current operating conditions and driver demand.

"FCCC is proud of its leadership in providing green technology to our customers," Randall said. "FCCC was the first to bring hybrid-electric vehicles to the commercial market several years ago, and we’ve continued in that tradition by introducing a hybrid-electric chassis designed for commercial buses in September. Today, we have once again made history as we launch ecoFRED, the very first hybrid-electric Class A motorhome chassis, to the market."

Additionally with ecoFRED, motorcoach travel is not limited by unique fuel requirements or the need for special refueling locations as compared with other alternative power train vehicles.

Exceeds Customers Expectations
ecoFRED is unlike any other chassis available in the RV market today. Powered by the Cummins® ISB 6.7-liter engine with up to 300 hp and an Eaton automated manual transmission, ecoFRED provides increased torque for better acceleration, contributing to a superior performance that has become synonymous with the FCCC brand.

ecoFRED also requires less braking because of its regenerative braking system, resulting in less brake wear and an extended brake life. Regenerative braking means that the HEV electric motor uses electricity to create torque, while also being able to reverse the process to use torque to create electricity. By reversing its electric motor to become a generator, electricity is fed back into the batteries, resulting in energy savings.

Another added benefit of ecoFRED is increased towing capacity with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 27,000 lbs. and a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 37,000 lbs. This enables travelers to carry more weight in the coach storage compartments or tow a heavier or additional vehicle.

Understanding the importance of maneuverability to motorhome owners as they travel and navigate through tight spatial constraints, FCCC engineers also designed ecoFRED to offer a best-in-class 55-degree wheel cut.

"Maneuverability is always a challenge for motorhome owners," said Tony Sippel, FCCC RV product manager. "Turning corners and entering and exiting parking areas can be difficult when operating a large vehicle. We incorporated a 55-degree wheel cut similar to the FRED chassis into the design of ecoFRED to allow drivers to more effectively navigate roadways, campgrounds and parking lots."

Also similar to the FRED chassis, ecoFRED does not have an engine hump or "dog house" typically found on a gas chassis. The result is a flat floor and more room in the driver cockpit, contributing to driver comfort and easier entry and egress from the seats to the back of the motorhome.

An idle-off feature will be available on ecoFRED in the near future. Idle-off enables the engine to shut down while sitting idle at traffic lights or while in traffic. This saves fuel by reducing engine idle time. The engine will shut off automatically after three to five motionless seconds. As soon as the driver removes pressure from the brake pedal, the engine will resume and normal driving conditions will apply.

Other significant benefits of the ecoFRED chassis to the motorhome user will be announced in upcoming months as they become available options.  

Green Heritage
FCCC and its parent company, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), have a long history of providing innovative technologies that benefit customers and the environment. FCCC’s commitment to green technologies is in line with Daimler’s global initiative called "Shaping Future Transportation." Launched by Daimler in 2007 in Stuttgart, Germany, the initiative is focused on reducing category emissions pollutants, carbon dioxide and fuel consumption.

And in August, Daimler announced the opening of the Global Hybrid Center at Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation in Kawasaki, Japan. The center will be the worldwide hub for Daimler Trucks’ hybrid development.

"We’re proud to be a part of this global initiative, and we will continue to be at the forefront of technology when it comes to vehicle design, performance and efficiency," Randall said.

FCCC also manufactures compressed natural gas (CNG) commercial vehicle chassis. Like the HEV, the benefits of this chassis option are significant. The FCCC MT-45 and MT-55 walk-in van chassis, along with the recently introduced MB-HEV commercial bus chassis, meet a growing customer demand for alternative-fuel power and provide the same excellent performance and durability as FCCC’s premium diesel-powered chassis.

ecoFRED will be available for order in the summer of 2009, with production expected to commence in the third quarter of 2009.

"ecoFRED is an excellent option for customers interested in reducing their fuel consumption and carbon footprint without losing the outstanding performance, ride and handling of a FCCC chassis," Randall added.  

Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation manufactures premium chassis for the motorhome, delivery walk-in van, and school bus and shuttle bus markets. Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation is a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America LLC, a Daimler company.

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