Revolutionary green technology bus

Jul 28, 2008
Fisher Coachworks' lightweight hybrid bus, which achieves twice the fuel economy of current hybrid buses, has some Oak Ridge National Laboratory roots. Credit: Fisher Coachworks

Insight from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, commitment from two Michigan companies and funding from the Department of Energy have led to the commercialization of a lightweight urban transit bus with double the fuel efficiency of conventional hybrid buses.

This new green technology 40-foot bus features a high-strength stainless steel body and chassis and a hybrid power system that drives the bus primarily with stored electrical energy. This approach reverses the paradigm of conventional parallel hybrid designs that use electric energy only to supplement the acceleration and torque requirements of a diesel engine.

At the heart of the bus is a chassis made of Nitronic 30, a nitrogen-strengthened stainless steel that is stronger and stiffer than conventional steel. These attributes translate into less material required for a chassis, resulting in reduced weight.

"Nitronic stainless steel is incredibly durable and enables our chassis designs to have significantly longer service life vs. ordinary steel vehicles," said Bruce Emmons, president of Autokinetics (www.autokinetics.com/) of Rochester, Mich., which developed the bus. "The fact that stainless is also 100 percent recyclable and more environmentally friendly to produce than aluminum makes this an ideal green raw material for vehicle structures."

Additional advantages of Nitronic 30 include excellent mechanical properties at sub-zero and elevated temperatures along with low-temperature impact resistance and superb resistance to high-temperature oxidation. While this material is more costly than conventional steel, Emmons noted that the additional cost is offset by design innovation, parts consolidation and streamlined manufacturing processes.

"The benefits of improved strength-to-weight performance quickly compound to all other vehicles systems such as smaller tires, lighter brakes, batteries, motors and so on," Emmons said. "By optimizing the total vehicle we have been able to cut the weight almost in half, which has led to performance improvements, most notably fuel economy gains."

In addition to its reduced weight and hybrid power system, the bus will incorporate a number of advanced design features and advantages, said Gregory Fisher, chief executive officer of Fisher Coachworks (www.fishercoachworks.com/), which licensed the technology, has produced a prototype and plans full commercialization. The bus made its debut today and deliveries of the bus are expected to begin in 2009.

Some of the advantages are improved vehicle safety for passengers, lower cost, reduced noise and improved ride dynamics. The major advantage, though, will be in cost to operate, according to Fisher.

Specific contributions from ORNL included computer crash studies and infrared thermal imaging to evaluate the quality of some of the initial laser welds in the structure. Early tests showed some problems with the laser welding technique, so Autokinetics chose to use resistance spot welding in most places and tungsten inert gas welding for the remainder of the joining needs.

But even before its technical contributions, Emmons said ORNL had a huge impact.

"ORNL was the first to suggest the possibility of applying Autokinetics' light-weighting ideas and technologies to the bus field," Emmons said. "Without that insight, this program would never have happened."

Phil Sklad of ORNL's Materials Science and Technology Division served as the program manager and technical monitor and noted that DOE's $2.5 million investment in this project is being rewarded with a revolutionary bus.

"This is a perfect example of how the Department of Energy, a national laboratory and the private sector can collaborate to produce something that is potentially of great value to society," Sklad said.

Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Explore further: Shedding light on solar power

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Form Devices team designs Point as a house sitter

7 hours ago

A Scandinavian team "with an international outlook" and good eye for electronics, software and design aims to reach success with what they characterize as "a softer take" on home security. Their device is ...

Man pleads guilty in New York cybercrime case

10 hours ago

A California man has pleaded guilty in New York City for his role marketing malware that federal authorities say infected more than a half-million computers worldwide.

NASA issues 'remastered' view of Jupiter's moon Europa

19 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Scientists have produced a new version of what is perhaps NASA's best view of Jupiter's ice-covered moon, Europa. The mosaic of color images was obtained in the late 1990s by NASA's Galileo ...

Dish restores Turner channels to lineup

19 hours ago

Turner Broadcasting channels such as Cartoon Network and CNN are back on the Dish network after being dropped from the satellite TV provider's lineup during contract talks.

Recommended for you

Audi to develop Tesla Model S all-electric rival

10 hours ago

The Tesla Model S has a rival. Audi is to develop all-electric family car. This is to be a family car that will offer an all-electric range of 280 miles (450 kilometers), according to Auto Express, which ...

A green data center with an autonomous power supply

16 hours ago

A new data center in the United States is generating electricity for its servers entirely from renewable sources, converting biogas from a sewage treatment plant into electricity and water. Siemens implemented ...

Can we create an energy efficient Internet?

17 hours ago

With the number of Internet connected devices rapidly increasing, researchers from Melbourne are starting a new research program to reduce energy consumption of such devices.

Shedding light on solar power

Nov 27, 2014

Everyone wants to save energy, but not everyone knows where to start. Grid Resources, a startup based out of the Centre for Urban Energy's iCUE incubator, is developing a new website that seeks to help homeowners ...

Energy transition project moves into its second phase

Nov 27, 2014

Siemens is studying new concepts for optimizing the cost-effectiveness and technical performance of energy systems with distributed and fluctuating electricity production. The associated IRENE research project ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

thku4grace
4 / 5 (1) Jul 28, 2008
Sounds great! But I don't see any information on how much a greater range this bus can manage. I also don't see how much more this bus will cost. "More costly" could mean $2.5 million a bus if we aren't careful.
lengould100
not rated yet Aug 14, 2008
I suppose the new bus is a worthwhile demonstration of a new materials process, but "more recyclable than aluminum"? And perhaps some aircraft engineers could help if you're having trouble with aluminum at low temperatures.

Should put a shorter leash on the PR flaks, it damages credibility.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.