Saturday, June 11, 2011

School bus in U.S. to run on recycled cooking oil

First hydraulic hybrid school bus in U.S. to run on recycled cooking oil

The first-ever school bus in the United States successfully converted into a green vehicle running on recycled biofuel is all set to drive on the streets of Atlanta, Georgia. 

The Ford Motor Company-funded project was carried out by a collaboration of Atlanta schools. Georgia Institute of Technology, one of the U.S.’ top ten public universities, developed the bus, while Atlanta district public schools donated the 16-passenger bus for the project. 

The “Green Eco School Bus” is a traditional school bus converted into a hydraulic hybrid vehicle that consumes recycled fuel, such as used cooking oil. 

A hydraulic hybrid vehicle uses pressurized fluid as an alternative source of power. It uses a pump or motor that draws energy while braking. The pressurized fluid from this process provides the energy to the vehicle’s pump or motor.


The “Green Eco School Bus” is a traditional school bus converted into a hydraulic hybrid vehicle that consumes recycled fuel, such as used cooking oil. Photo by the Georgia Institute of Technology

The bus’ designers and developers, Georgia Tech assistant professor Michael Leamy and his students, are looking into converting other school buses as hydraulic hybrids, to help lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce transportation costs for schools.

The team is also conducting a cost-benefit analysis of a large-scale conversion of a school bus fleet to hydraulic hybrid powertrains designed to recover lost braking energy. 

“We expect our research will lead to cleaner, more efficient school buses that will help school districts like Atlanta public schools significantly reduce fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Professor Leamy. 

But the main beneficiaries of the project, Atlanta’s public elementary schools, prefer not to stand idle and just wait for their eco-buses. Students at Mary Lin Elementary School are organizing a drive to collect used cooking oil for processing into biodiesel to fuel the bus. They gave the bus its finishing touches by painting it green, too. 

"Our students are eager to learn about new ways to care for the environment. The Green Eco School Bus turns a theoretical concept into a fun and exciting reality that stimulates their learning," said the principal of Mary Lin, Brian Mitchell. 

Meanwhile, the $50,000 Ford financing for the project was awarded under the Ford College Community Challenge Grant, or the Ford C3. The program invites 32 partner universities and colleges to create student-led projects that address a specific social problem. 

Five projects are chosen every year and given $50,000 each. Recent Ford C3 winners include an energy efficiency project called Generation Energy in 2009 by Michigan Technological University students. The project winter-proofed low-income senior citizen homes and won alongside other energy efficiency projects such as a bike-sharing and residential energy efficiency improvement using information technology.

Ford is working on energy efficiency projects with other universities. It partnered with the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise to develop financial models that will help Michigan’s poorest cities upgrade facilities and reduce energy consumption and costs. 

The Cities of Promise project will use a revolving energy fund of $50,000 from the Ford Motor Co. Fund, which distributes the Ford C3 grants.


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