NAPA, Calif. — Napa Valley Unified School District (USD) recently took delivery of a NEXBUS hybrid-electric Type A school bus manufactured by Collins Bus Corp.
The vehicle is the first hybrid Type A unit to be put into operation. It is configured for 14 seats and a wheelchair. Collins entered into an agreement with Azure Dynamics Corp. earlier this year to develop Type A school buses with hybrid-electric systems. Collins is offering Azure’s hybrid technology as an option for buses built on the Ford E-450 chassis.
“We are excited to bring another innovative product to the school bus industry,” said Kent Tyler, president of Collins Bus Corp. “Our customers have gotten used to seeing hybrids in passenger cars, and some of them personally own hybrids. Now they’ll be able to use the same technology for their small school buses throughout North America.”
Ralph Knight, transportation director at Napa Valley USD, first heard of Collins’ plan to offer hybrid Type As during the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Institute’s conference and expo in Orlando, Fla., in April through a friend who worked at Ford and an official from Azure Dynamics who was also in attendance.
When two chassis arrived at Collins’ facility a couple of months later, a company official called Knight and told him that Collins wanted to put one of the buses into service at his operation.
“We’re pretty excited to receive the bus and get it running,” Knight said. “This is technology that’s been [utilized in] delivery trucks, and we’ve learned a lot about it through that. It’s a very positive thing coming into this segment of the school bus industry, because there haven’t been a lot of alternative fuel options for special-needs buses and this technology has proven itself.”
Delivery trucks get about 11 miles per gallon from the hybrid-electric system, according to Knight. Because Type A buses are lighter than the trucks, he estimated that he may get between 13 and 14 miles per gallon from his unit.
“We know it won’t be any less than the delivery truck,” he reasoned, “and if you can pick up three to four additional miles per gallon, that [equates to] a pretty good chunk of change over the span of a year.”
Napa Valley USD’s hybrid Type A bus was funded through a Bay Area Air Quality Management District grant.
Knight said he hoped to have the bus certified by the California Highway Patrol and his drivers trained to operate the bus in time to have it running for the 2009-10 school year.