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The 2014 NFPA Fluid Power Innovation Awards

The NFPA Fluid Power Innovation Awards honor the innovative achievements of individual design engineers in industries that use fluid power technology. The goal of these awards is to increase the visibility of hydraulics and pneumatics in those industries, and to raise the profile of exemplary individuals using fluid power technology to address market needs. 

Engineers and technicians are eligible to participate in the awards. (Membership in NFPA is not required.)

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Each applicant must provide documentation of the innovation. Suggested improvements include:

  • Increasing energy efficiency;
  • Improving reliability;
  • Reducing system size while maintaining or increasing power output;
  • Reducing environmental impact;
  • Improving and applying energy storage, recovery and redeployment capabilities.

Judging Procedure
A Judging Committee consisting of members of the NFPA Marketing Committee—representing the fluid power professionals in mobile hydraulics, industrial hydraulics and pneumatics—will review the applications and make the awards.

Award Presentation
The Award and a $1,000 cash prize will be presented to the winner(s) or donated to the charity of their choice.

The Awards do not indicate NFPA’s endorsement of any company nor guarantee the warranty or quality of any particular product submitted by the applicant. Recipients are responsible for all federal, state and local taxes. Recipients are also responsible for securing permission to submit any information that may be considered proprietary to their company or customer. NFPA reserves the right to use all information and materials (including text, photo and video) submitted for entry in promoting the use of fluid power and this award. NFPA also reserves the right to use photos and names of winners in promoting the award. By submitting an application applicants acknowledge that they have read and understand these terms.

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For questions about the NFPA Innovation Award, please contact NFPA Technology and Standards Manager Denise Rockhill, (414) 778-3354.

2012 NFPA Innovation Award Winner

NFPA Innovation Award Recognizes Jude Hueber for Innovative Use of a Hydraulic System in Commercial On-Road Vehicles

Mechanical engineer Jude Hueber was recognized as the recipient of the 2012 NFPA Innovation Award, given to individuals for using fluid power technology in innovative ways. Hueber received the award at the Green Transportation Conference held in Colorado for his innovative use of a hydraulic system specifically designed to allow kinetic energy recovery and re-use in commercial on-road vehicles.

The hybrid hydraulic drive system designed by Hueber and a team of Lightning Hybrids, LLC. engineers integrates components from various manufacturers with sophisticated software that controls the speed of fixed displacement pumps and accumulator pressures to optimize efficiency for lighter shuttle buses and delivery vehicles. Drivers can monitor system performance on the fly via dashboard mounted tablet computer. According to Lightning Hybrids, the system has achieved energy savings, or corresponding emissions reductions, of 33% to 40% over similar vehicles with conventional drivetrains.

Multiple applications for the award were reviewed by an NFPA Innovation Award committee comprised of marketing professionals from several NFPA member companies. In its review of Huber’s application, the committee acknowledged that the anticipated cost-savings from applying the technology of fixed displacement pumps and accumulator pressures will increase the efficiency of and offer greater cost-savings for the lighter commercial vehicle market.

According to Hueber the circuit has many functions which allow smooth and very efficient energy recovery from a moving vehicle. The circuit controls clutches, motor pressure, pump pressure, and coordinated shifts while having layers of redundant safety features.

The novelty of the innovation is in its application and specifically because of the power density and efficiency of the system that is achieved in a small package that is very cost effective. While other hydraulic energy recovery systems for commercial trucks have employed variable displacement pump/motors, the innovation uses a creative hydraulic circuit and controls strategy to coordinate the operation of three discrete fixed displacement motors. The circuit allows the operation of the designated motors to operate seamlessly as pumps or motors, as well as providing seven different torque steps for recovering energy from a vehicle and applying it back to the vehicle. Torque between these steps is infinitely variable for drive-ability although it impacts recovery efficiency slightly. It is essentially a hydraulic transmission for parallel energy recovery and reuse. Pressure control of the motors using pressure transducers on the motor outlets and inlets and the aluminum carbon wrapped accumulator allow very tight control of the torque contribution of the system.

The overall system has a broad impact for customers who have commercial vehicles from Class 2 through Class 8. The innovation in its current configuration is very scaleable. There are several local customers who will be implementing the technology this summer. Jude’s team at Lightning Hybrids Inc. is very excited about the potential impact that this technology could have on the commercial truck market. It is an extremely affordable and effective system that can be used broadly. The innovation brings hybrid technology to fleet owners at a cost that will give them a rapid return on investment in fuel savings alone.

2011 NFPA Innovation Award Winner

2011 NFPA Innovation Award Presented for Energy Saving Marine Hydraulics

The first annual NFPA Innovation Award was presented to Erling Skaar and Odd Arild Olsen of GenTech Global for their innovative use of hydraulics to achieve energy savings and reduce emissions on commercial ships and boats.

The winner was selected by NFPA Marketing Committee volunteers from among nominations submitted by NFPA members. The award recognizes innovative applications of hydraulics and pneumatics by customers and users of fluid power, and is part of a Marketing Committee effort to draw attention to advances in fluid power and the advantages of using fluid power.

Skaar and Olsen are the principle designers of GenTech Global’s hydraulic AC generation system, which is designed to save energy and reduce emissions by using hydraulics coupled to the main drive to generate electricity for other onboard systems. The initial system has been installed and tested under demanding conditions on the F/V North American, a crab fishing boat that operates out of Seattle to fish the Bering Sea.

According to Skaar and Olsen, the North American equipped with the hydraulic AC generation system burns 20 to 25% less diesel fuel than similar vessels, and saved $2,200 to $2,500 in diesel fuel for a one-way trip from Seattle to Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Here’s how it works.

A typical crab fishing boat has three diesel engines: a main engine to propel the boat; a backup engine in case of main engine failure; and a third engine that drives a generator to supply electrical power needed for lights, compressors and other equipment. The hydraulic AC generation system removes the third engine entirely. The generator is driven by a hydraulic pump coupled to the shaft turned by the main engine. A set of electronic controls adjust automatically to changes in main engine rpm to ensure stable frequency and voltage from the generator. A fuel meter helps the crew track fuel use making it easier to pilot the boat under optimal engine loading conditions.

In addition to fuel savings, removal of the third engine eliminates a major source of emissions, reduces maintenance requirements and creates more usable space below deck…no small consideration on many work boats. And while the main story of this innovation is efficiency and environmental cleanliness, the ruggedness, reliability and power density hydraulics is known for is essential when operating in the harsh conditions of the Bering Sea.

Nonetheless, the vision of Skaar and Olsen extends well beyond crab fishing boats for this innovative use of hydraulics. They see a major untapped market in the many work boats plying the waters of the Mississippi, Ohio and other rivers, and the potential to multiply the energy savings and emissions reductions achieved on the North American many times over…boat by boat.