WWU awarded $730,000 grant to build hybrid bus

The Bellingham Business Journal

The Federal Transit Administration recently awarded Western Washington University a $730,000 grant to design a lightweight hybrid bus for transit applications. The project is under way at the Technology Development Center (TDC), a Port of Bellingham facility leased by WWU and Bellingham Technical College (BTC).

Partners with WWU in the project include Transition Composites, Janicki Industries, Kitsap Transit, Whatcom Transportation Authority (WTA), Airtech and the Port of Bellingham.

“Western is committed to strong private and public partnerships, as demonstrated by this innovative hybrid bus project, which are fostering research on and development of new technologies,” WWU President Bruce Shepard said in a press release.

The initial design for the bus project is for a 24-foot, 15-passenger, low-floor, paratransit shuttle bus with the primary goals of reducing fuel consumption and fleet operating costs, as well as improving driver control and passenger ergonomics. This will be accomplished through the use of high strength-to-weight ratio materials for the chassis, body and interior components; aerodynamic optimization of the body; and the use of non-petroleum-based fuel options for the internal combustion engine portion of the hybrid powertrain.

“The WWU Hybrid Bus Project is a research and design effort that seeks to create a paradigm-changing shuttle bus design intended for a variety of transportation applications,” said Steven Fleishman, hybrid bus project manager and assistant professor of engineering technology at Western.

The plan is to build a proof-of-concept (POC) vehicle based on the Federal Transit Administration design. It is intended to serve as an initial demonstrator for the primary transit industry partners located in the Pacific Northwest region and other interested customers, and to allow for production feasibility analysis by potential bus manufacturers.

The project is currently on track to build the vehicle by the fall of 2013. Market analysis indicates that potential national demand for such a hybrid bus could be as high as 3,000 vehicles annually.

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