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Hydraulic Hybrids Head for the Hills

Hydraulic Hybrids Head for the Hills

Denali National Park recently took delivery of two buses that rely on hydraulic hybrid technology to conserve fuel and cut emissions while operating in the 6-million-acre park.

Mount Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley) is the centerpiece of Denali National Park, and with good reason: At 20,310 ft., it is the highest point in North America. Park officials recently took delivery of their first two hydraulic hybrid vehicles from Colonial Equipment Co., a leading provider of commercial buses, coaches, and vans.  The shuttle buses will transport park visitors along a 14-mile paved section of the scenic 92-mile long Denali Park Rd.—the only road in the 6-million-acre park. It runs parallel to the Alaska Range and travels through low valleys and high-mountain passes.

“The National Park Service has a long-standing commitment to using advanced clean technology in their fleet vehicles,” says David Brosky, vice president at Lightning Hybrids. “Our hydraulic hybrid systems work well in harsh environments and will help reduce emissions and save fuel.”

“Visitors are hoping to spot bears or caribou from our shuttle buses that travel along the road winding into the park,” says Andrew Gertge, commercial services specialist at Denali National Park. “They will not only enjoy a nice smooth ride, but also cleaner air.”

The two vehicles use the hydraulic hybrid Energy Recovery System (ERS) designed and built by Lightning Hybrids, Loveland, Colo. for medium- and heavy-duty fleet vehicles. The patented, parallel hydraulic hybrid system applies a hydraulic system to the driveline of a vehicle to regenerate braking energy. Hydraulic pumps and a lightweight accumulator brake the vehicle, store the braking energy, and then use that stored energy to provide power to the wheels. As a result, it burns less fuel and cuts emissions. Additional benefits include safer braking, more power for acceleration, and a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.

The ERS does not have batteries. Instead it safely and efficiently stores energy in composite hydraulic accumulators, which are a fraction of the cost and weight of batteries. The ERS can be installed on new vehicles and retrofitted on vehicles already in service. It is sold through a network of dealers and upfitters. For more information, call (800) 223-0740, or visit

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