I never understood why school buses had to be so huge, and I can’t only imagine their gas mileage in the low single-digits. Ford has teamed up with Georgia Tech to build the first hydraulic hybrid bus conversion here in the U.S.
The 16-passenger bus will be retrofitted with a hydraulic hybrid system, which is funded by $50,000 from the Ford College Community Challenge grant. The project aims to convert this one bus to a hybrid to see if retrofitting whole fleets of buses makes economical and environmental sense. Many school systems across the country are struggling to find funding, and untold millions are funneled from the school into the gas tanks of these huge yellow beasts.
So you’re probably asking yourself, why a hydraulic hybrid system, and not a standard hybrid-electric? Simply put, regenerative braking powers a pump, that pushes fluid into a reservoir that provides power directly to the driveshaft at low speeds. This eliminates the need for a huge, expensive battery system, and hydraulic systems are probably better at moving those huge buses anyway.
There are plenty of other companies and students working on different buses of the future, from all-electric luxury “superbuses” to plug-in hybrids, but school buses represent a bigger challenge because these beasts often need to go far, far out of the way to pick up their passengers. Maybe if more parents could find time to drop off/pick up their kids at school themselves, we could get rid of a lot of those buses, but for now, this hydraulic hybrid idea doesn’t seem half bad.
Source: Inhabitat via Ford
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs. You can read about his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout or follow his non-nonsensical ramblings on Twitter @harshcougar.