Ford and Georgia Tech Invest in a Hydraulic Hybrid School Bus

Ford and Georgia Tech are teaming up to create a hydraulic hybrid school bus to help schools lower their spending on gas.

Online PR News – 25-May-2011 – – With gas prices rising, schools are spending much more on gas for buses than they used to. Many school systems are struggling to come up with funding for their buses, so Ford and Georgia Tech decided to come together to create a hydraulic hybrid school bus. The bus is a 16-passenger bus that was funded by the Ford College Community with a donation of $50,000. The project’s goal is to retrofit the bus to a hybrid and see if retrofitting a whole fleet would make sense economically and environmentally.

Michael Leamy, Georgia Tech assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is in charge of a group of students developing the hydraulic hybrid system. Students from Mary Lin Elementary School are also coming together to help paint the bus and organize a drive to collect used cooking oil for processing into biodiesel. The students have decided to go with a hydraulic system because it is better at moving big buses than a standard hybrid-electric. Regenerative breaking powers a pump that pushes fluid into a reservoir that gives power to the driveshaft at low speeds. This gets rid of the need for a big, expensive battery system.

The project also included a cost-benefit analysis for the conversion of the bus fleet to hydraulic hybrid buses. Two retrofit designs were analyzed to find the best design that is safe and reliable. After choosing the best design, Leamy said he hopes that the research will provide school districts with information on how to significantly reduce fuel costs and emissions from their school buses.

There is currently other research being done on how to power buses in the future from all-electric luxury superbuses to plug-in hybrids. However buses present a unique challenge because they are so big and need to travel far to pick up passengers. A 16-passenger bus is much smaller than the average school bus, which tend to have anywhere from 24 to 72 passengers. However, for now, the hydraulic hybrid bus is the best option.