Now they’re on site in Iowa, at Sigourney Community School District and Nevada Community School District. At work since January 3rd, the news broke last week from Iowa State University which is studying the performance on behalf of Advanced Energy, a non profit based in Raleigh, N.C. The Iowa buses are two of 19 scattered across 11 states. Financial backing came from the districts themselves at about the cost of a standard bus, or $70K, grants from the Iowa Energy Center of about $110K per bus, $60K each from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and $41.5K each from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the School Administrators of Iowa. That comes to a little more than the $217K for each bus modified for hybrid drive and covers the study costs.

Hybrid Bus

The drive unit isn’t terribly well described. It’s using a diesel V8 for acceleration and highway operation. The electric drive moves the bus at street speeds. The bus coaches are IC Corporation builds mated to an Enova Systems hybrid electric drive.

Iowa State University’s Center for Transportation Research and Education played a significant role in getting the project working. Their effort combined with the financial sponsors proved forceful enough to get the manufactures to develop the hybrid buses. The analysis is seeking to discover the energy and environmental performance of hybrid drives to save fuel costs for school districts. The buses are equipped with emissions monitors and provisioned with download capabilities from the engine computers for fuel efficiency readings.

Dennis Kroeger, a transportation specialist at the ISU Center notes the drive unit also uses a regenerative braking kit to recover energy from braking. Mr. Kroeger estimates that the drive units as delivered will gain 40 to 50% in fuel efficiency. Buses of the type modified usually get 6 mpg so a 10 to 11 mpg is expected. At $3.30 a gallon for diesel in Iowa this week the buses would save $0.25 per mile in fuel costs or 592K miles to reach breakeven. But these are prototype assemblies for testing. What a production run might cost per bus is not discussed.

Part of the study should include an analysis of what properties of the hybrid design yield the best cost/benefit advantage. Buses are large coaches on medium duty truck frames, operate in a lot of stop and go traffic and serve for years and many miles before retirement.

The surprise is that the ISU Center and the financial backers had to persuade and motivate the manufacturers to produce the buses. That makes the surprise a disappointment. While the public is catching on very fast, the manufacturers aren’t getting it.

Another surprise is that Enova Systems expects that 2007 will see 375 drive units delivered. This is a number that exposes the seemingly very high cost. The numbers are going to need to get into the hundreds of thousands for a real drop in costs.

Its pretty refreshing to see that it hybrid bus and medium duty trucks are in the hybrid field, getting built and tested. The volumes to get big drops in costs depend on the effort, cooperation, study, and development by groups like this, companies, and other entities that invest in the future.

Lastly, some quotes by the drivers. This will cheer you up!

“You’ve got to be careful with the accelerator because hybrid school buses like to go.”

“It has quite a bit of get up and go,” “You push the pedal and it takes right off.”

“It takes some practice to get the most out of Iowa’s first two hybrid buses.”

Well, who would have thought, big yellow hybrid bus?

Check out the Enova Systems site.


4 Comments so far

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