Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Plug-in Bus



Charging ahead with new LIPA buses
By Jean Paul Vellotti
Long Island Business News
Friday, July 14, 2006


HAUPPAUGE – After five years of planning, research and development, the first plug-in hybrid electric bus built to serve Long Island straphangers is getting ready to roll.

While the outside and interior of the bus look similar to those operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, it’s what’s under its frame that makes this people mover special.
That, and the estimated $2 million it cost to convert the vehicle.

Dubbed the “LIPA BUS,” the 40-passenger El Dorado coach was converted by Hauppauge-based Odyne Corp., a developer and manufacturer of heavy-duty hybrid systems.

The project was initiated by the Long Island Power Authority and co-sponsored by the Electric Power Research Institute, a not-for-profit research center based in Palo Alto, Calif.

“We built the bus in the spirit of those efforts. What’s unique about this vehicle is that it is a plug-in hybrid. It takes the best of hybrid technology and marries it with a low-sulfur diesel component.”

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The LIPA bus had its massive, rear-mounted engine removed. In its place, a new four-cylinder Volkswagen diesel was installed. But this tiny power plant won’t move the bus – it couldn’t if it tried. Instead it will serve as a generator to recharge and top off two trays of batteries that power a large electric motor mounted to the drive wheels.

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Even with all that weight, the LIPA bus can travel up to 40 miles on batteries alone, without any power from its generator. With the generator, the bus would drive just like a normal running diesel-powered vehicle, said Slotkin.

Unlike hybrid passenger cars such as the Toyota Prius, which do not use plug-in power to recharge, the bus can use the same type of outlet as a stove or clothes dryer.

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Bob Graham, program manager of the Electric Transportation Research Institute at EPRI, said projects such as the LIPA bus will help solve the challenge of bringing the plug-in vehicle to our roads.

But it will take time to see a change in the vehicles people drive.

“Our mindset has started to change with the introduction of hybrid vehicles from Japan,” Graham said.

“The American marketplace will adapt and grow. What we need is time to get operating data to fleet managers to show how much they can save using plug-ins.”



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