The Ford Motor Company Fund and the Georgia Institute of Technology have joined forces to create the U.S.’s first conversion of a traditional school bus into a hydraulic hybrid vehicle that runs on recycled biofuel. The project was financed by a $50,000 Ford College Community Challenge Grant, while the bus was donated by Atlanta Public Schools. The project is aiming to create a system that will allow existing school buses to become hydraulic hybrids, which could lower greenhouse emissions and reduce transportation costs for schools.

The team is led by Michael Leamy, Georgia Tech assistant professor of mechanical engineering, who is directing a group of students in developing the hydraulic hybrid system for the 16-passenger school bus. The local community has also pitched in — students from Mary Lin Elementary School are painting “the Green Eco School Bus” green and organizing a drive to collect used cooking oil for processing into biodiesel.

“Together with Georgia Tech and Atlanta Public Schools, we are taking innovation from the classroom to the community,” said Jim Vella, president, Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services. “This is a noteworthy example of the types of programs we are bringing to Atlanta as part of our new Operation Goodwill partnership with local Ford and Lincoln dealers with the goal of expanding our engagement with this community.”

The project also includes a cost-benefit analysis for the large-scale conversion of a school bus fleet to hydraulic hybrid powertrains designed to recover lost braking energy. “After analyzing two retrofit designs, we have selected the best design for a reliable and safe retrofit,” said Leamy. ”We expect our research will provide school districts with a roadmap on how to significantly reduce fuel costs and emissions associated with their school bus fleets.”

Going to school may still be a burden for many pupils, but at least it will be an eco-friendly burden!

+ Ford Motor Company

+ Georgia Institute of Technology