BELLINGHAM - Western Washington University's Vehicle Research Institute (VRI) is working with Bremerton-based Kitsap Transit to produce a prototype hybrid passenger bus that will get double the miles-per-gallon of its existing buses.
The prototype will be used to construct a fleet of up to six buses that will be purchased by Kitsap Transit.
"Kitsap's 15-passenger buses are now getting about eight or nine miles per gallon. What we hope to produce is a hybrid vehicle that will get at least 20 miles per gallon - and we're shooting for 30," said Eric Leonhardt, director of the VRI.
Dick Hayes, executive director of Kitsap Transit, said the genesis for this project lies in a tripling of wholesale diesel-fuel prices during the past three years.
"Prices have gone from .87 cents per gallon to $2.68. Some analysts are saying we could be looking at $5 to $7 a gallon by 2012, and that would just shatter our budget," he said. "This whole industry needs a wakeup call, and we just felt that the VRI is the most imaginative, hands-on group to get us the breakthrough design we need."
Hayes said that while Kitsap Transit is taking the lead on this project, 10 or 11 other regional transit systems will be paying close attention to its progress.
"We can't do it alone; we're going to need all the systems to buy in," he said.
Leonhardt says he envisions the project taking about three years, depending on the funding that is available; the VRI has applied for a grant from the Washington Technology Center, and will apply for more funding from a number of the regional transportation authorities.
"This is going to be a great learning tool for our students," said Leonhardt.
According to Leonhardt, all that is set in stone on the design so far is that it will be a fuel/electric hybrid; whether the fuel is biodeisel, biomethane from the VRI's award-winning manure-to-fuel program, or another type has not yet been decided.
The Vehicle Research Institute is Western Washington University's award-winning vehicle-design laboratory, producing everything from solar-powered vehicles to its electric-biomethane hybrid.
For more information about the Kitsap Transit bus project or the VRI, call Steven Fleishman, assistant professor of Engineering Technology, at (360) 650-2914, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
For print quality versions of the conceptual artwork for the bus design, click here.