Thomas Built Develops Hybrid School Bus

High Point Manufacturer Testing Hybrid Engine Technology

High Point, N.C. – A prototype of a hybrid Saf T Liner® C2 school bus is currently being evaluated in North Carolina. The vehicle should reduce emissions and improve fuel economy by 30 percent or more. The prototype bus, powered by a Mercedes Benz diesel engine, an Eaton transmission, and an electric motor, was developed jointly by Thomas Built, Eaton Corporation and Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation.

“Thomas Built is very committed to advancing hybrid technology in our school buses,” said John O’Leary, president and CEO of Thomas Built Buses. “That said, we want to make sure we have a well-tested and reliable product before bringing it to market.”

The powertrain used in the hybrid bus has been refined for more than two years in a delivery van application developed by Freightliner Custom Chassis and Eaton. Approximately 200 vehicles have been built and are currently in operation. The experience gained from the hybrid delivery vans (which have an operating profile similar to a school bus) is being leveraged by Thomas for the school bus market. In those vans, tests revealed a fuel savings of 300 to 450 gallons per year, based on annual mileage of 10,000 miles. Assuming a $3 per gallon fuel price, the annual cost savings is between $900 and $1,350 per year.

“As the price of diesel fuel increases and the price of hybrid buses decreases as more are produced, the payback becomes more favorable,” said O’Leary.

Other advantages of Thomas’ hybrid bus are expected to include reduced brake wear and component maintenance and quieter operation. There’s even an advantage that can’t be measured in dollars: the boost to a school district’s image from driving a fleet of environmentally responsible school buses.

The Thomas Built hybrid prototype bus will be shown at 2008 pupil transportation events including the School Transportation News School Bus EXPO in Reno, Nev., July 28-20 and the National Association for Pupil Transportation Conference and Trade Show in Myrtle Beach, S.C., October 26–30.

Thomas Built Buses is the leading manufacturer of school buses in North America, with more than one-third of the market. Since the first Thomas Built bus rolled off the assembly line in 1936, the company has focused on delivering the smartest and most innovative buses in North America.

Thomas Built Buses, Inc. is a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America LLC, the largest heavy-duty truck manufacturer on the continent and a leading manufacturer of class 3-8 vehicles. Daimler Trucks North America produces and markets commercial vehicles under the Freightliner, Sterling, Western Star and Thomas Built Buses nameplates. Daimler Trucks North America is a Daimler company.

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