Low funding puts hybrid bus in park

Students may wonder why the University is not putting its environmentally friendly bus to use on the BGSU shuttle routes, but officials in the College of Technology say they have reasons for not doing so.

The Electric Vehicle Institute in the University’s College of Technology is currently without a license agreement and funding for the hybrid bus.

The bus, equipped with Hybrid Booster Drive which reduces emissions and increases fuel mileage, was used on the main shuttle route over a year ago, in Summer 2005.

The institute previously licensed the bus to Goshen Coach, an Indiana based passenger commercial vehicle company, but after the company was bought out the license agreement was lost.

The program has been inactive for six months now, as the government funding for the bus also ran out, said Jeff Major, EVI’s chief engineer.

“We’re actively seeking commercial partners,” he said.

John Folkins, CEO of the Research Institute at the University, is working with EVI to acquire a license agreement for the hybrid bus.

Once a contract is secured the Research Institute will work to propose a budget to EVI.

“There certainly is the hope that that will work out,” Folkins said.

Anthony Palumbo, chief of operations for EVI, said the technical work is done.

However, the institute is looking to take the technology down another avenue – seeking marketing partners to help them bridge the gap between the project itself, and the ability to actually put the hybrid bus on the shuttle service route.

“That’s the primary area we are focusing on,” Palumbo said, while adding that the direction the Research Institute is going will hopefully take the project to the marketing sector.

“Right now it’s a marketing problem, not a technical problem,” Palumbo said.

With the electric-diesel hybrid system the bus can run its engine at a lower power and fuel rate while acquiring power, Major said.

The system re-generates heat and converts kinetic energy into electric energy, which is then stored in batteries and used to assist the booster drive.

This conversion and storage of energy is what makes the system beneficial to vehicles like shuttle buses that make frequent stops.

After running routes with the hybrid bus the EVI found a 25 percent reduction in fuel usage, Major said.

Another benefit of the system is the bus can run on just the diesel engine if necessary, unlike other hybrid systems that have to be taken off route if the electric system encounters a problem, according to Fred Smith, equipment maintenance superintendent for public safety. Smith was the shuttle driver of the hybrid bus back in 2005.

Smith said a positive attribute about the hybrid bus is its 18-month brake life, compared to only six months for the other shuttle buses.

“I think it’s an awesome technology. I think it has tremendous potential,” he said.