ATLANTA — The Ford Motor Co. Fund and the Georgia Institute of Technology are partnering on the nation's first conversion of a traditional school bus to a hydraulic hybrid vehicle that runs on recycled biofuel.
Conducted by Georgia Tech, the project is financed by a $50,000 Ford College Community Challenge Grant — one of five given annually for a student-led project that matches university resources with an urgent community need related to sustainability.
Michael Leamy, Georgia Tech assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and his students have designed and developed the hydraulic hybrid system for the 16-passenger school bus — which was provided by Atlanta Public Schools (APS) — and its installation is nearly complete.
Students at Mary Lin Elementary School are painting the "Green Eco School Bus" green and organizing a drive to collect used cooking oil for processing into biodiesel.
"Together with Georgia Tech and Atlanta Public Schools, we are taking innovation from the classroom to the community," said Jim Vella, president of Ford Motor Co. Fund and Community Services. "This is a noteworthy example of the types of programs we are bringing to Atlanta as part of our new Operation Goodwill partnership with local Ford and Lincoln dealers with the goal of expanding our engagement with this community."
The project includes a cost-benefit analysis of a large-scale conversion of a school bus fleet to hydraulic hybrid powertrains designed to recover lost braking energy. Hydraulic hybrids use pressurized fluid, rather than electric power, as a power source in addition to the engine.
"We expect our research will lead to cleaner, more efficient school buses that will help school districts like APS significantly reduce fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions," Leamy said.
Atlanta Public Schools officials are using the project to educate the next generation of students about green energy.
"Our students are eager to learn about new ways to care for the environment," said Brian Mitchell, principal of Mary Lin Elementary. "The Green Eco School Bus turns a theoretical concept into a fun and exciting reality that stimulates their learning."