Hybrid bus system demonstrations set for tonight, Thursday | AspenTimes.com

Hybrid bus system demonstrations set for tonight, Thursday

Allyn Harvey
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will continue its long tradition of testing out new technologies by hosting demonstrations tonight and Thursday of a system billed as “fuel neutral.”

Officials from Allison Transmission will explain the workings of the Allison Electric Drive Parallel Hybrid System. The company maintains that its technology is much cleaner and quieter than standard diesel engines.

This marks the latest effort by RFTA officials to find an environmentally friendly bus that works well at high altitude.

In 1990, the transit agency bought a natural gas powered bus that never quite worked correctly. And in 1997, officials from Cummins Engine Co. came to town to show off and test their liquid natural gas engine.

The latest effort involves hybrid technology where the power comes from both a diesel engine and a battery. It is similar to the technology that’s been successfully employed in passenger cars sold by Toyota and Honda.

Allison Transmission designs, manufactures and sells medium- and heavy-duty automatic transmissions. A division of General Motors, Allison Transmission has been in business since 1915 and selling transmissions to the transit industry since the 1950s.

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Hybrid engine technologies have proven to be much more fuel efficient and less polluting. The Allison system consumes 60 percent less fuel than standard diesel engines, and emissions of various pollutants are cut by 50 to 90 percent, according to a press release from RFTA.

Buses equipped with the Allison Transmission hybrid system exhibit up to 50 percent better acceleration compared to buses equipped with a conventional diesel powertrain, company officials say.

RFTA maintenance director Kenny Osier also said the technology addresses another important problem for people living along bus routes ? noise. When the bus accelerates from a stop, the batteries supply ample power for acceleration, eliminating the excessive diesel cloud and noise that an accelerating bus typically emits.

Allison will also be collecting data on what it’s calling “Hush Mode,” a developing technology that allows the bus to operate for limited distances on stored electrical energy in the battery, dramatically reducing noise levels through sensitive areas.

According to the press release, Allison officials believe RFTA may find good use for Hush Mode. And RFTA officials are already envisioning hybrid buses operating along major traffic routes, then switching to Hush Mode as they enter communities and neighborhoods.

Allison officials will present information on the design and operation of their system followed by a question and answer session tonight from 5:30 to 7 at the bus maintenance facility across from the Pitkin County Airport.

They will demonstrate their product throughout the valley beginning tomorrow morning in Aspen. The following is the demonstration schedule:

? Aspen, Rubey Park, 8:30-10 a.m.

? Snowmass Village, Lot A, 10:30-11:30 a.m.

? Glenwood Springs, Glenwood Springs Chamber Association, 1102 Grand Avenue,12:30-2 p.m.

? Carbondale, Carbondale Town Hall, 2:30-3:15 p.m.

? Basalt, Basalt Town Hall, 3:30-4:15 p.m.

“You can stand in the area and check out how quiet it is, get on, check it out and take a ride,” said RFTA’s Alice Hubbard.

For more information call Osier at 920-1905, extension 209, or Hubbard, 963-9012.

[Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is aharvey@aspentimes.com]

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