BUTTE, MT – NorthWestern Energy, which has added hybrid vehicles to its fleet in recent years, unveiled its first hybrid bucket truck June 10 in Missoula.

The hybrid technology saves fuel and also allows the truck's diesel engine to be shut down while crews perform line repair and maintenance work relying on the vehicle's batteries to operate the aerial lift. Drawing on the battery power eliminates both noise and diesel exhaust.

"This new hybrid bucket truck costs about $45,000 more than a standard truck, but will go about twice the distance before needing to refuel depending on driving and work conditions," said Ron Anderson, NorthWestern Energy's manager of fleet and equipment. "It also produces about half the emissions of a conventional vehicle, which is - quite literally - a breath of fresh air for a work truck."

The 40-foot, 26,000-lb. hybrid bucket truck has an aerial lift of 42 feet and replaces an older vehicle that NorthWestern will retire from its companywide fleet of 947 vehicles. The company began adding hybrid service vehicles to its fleet three years ago. It plans to continue replacing service vehicles with hybrids as appropriate and plans to add another hybrid bucket truck to the fleet later this year.

"While this is the first hybrid bucket truck in the fleet," Anderson said, "we continue to operate our other conventional trucks with safety and environmental responsibility in mind. The crews are mindful of idling trucks only to the extent necessary to do their work safely and we've implemented various operational changes over the years to reduce fuel consumption. We are always looking for new approaches to sustainable and cost-effective fleet management practices."

NorthWestern Energy provides electricity and natural gas in the Upper Midwest and Northwest, serving approximately 656,000 customers in Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska.  More information on NorthWestern Energy is available at www.northwesternenergy.com.