The SEDC created this award to recognize projects that show extraordinary leadership and serve as a role model for others. The group is part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Clean Diesel Campaign to reduce pollution from diesel engine emissions.
The KCFC team, which also includes the Kentucky Department of Education, provides hybrid-electric school buses to the state of Kentucky under a $12-million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Kentucky has the largest hybrid school bus fleet in the country, with 162 buses and six more on order, all featuring Eaton hybrid systems. One district, Jefferson County Public Schools, acquired 50 hybrid buses — split about evenly between IC Bus and Thomas Built Buses — thanks to KCFC grant support.
The IC Bus and Thomas hybrid buses are built on the same production line as models with conventional powertrains. Eaton assembles the hybrid system, including the clutch, electric motor, battery and six-speed automated transmission, at its facility in Kings Mountain, N.C.
“Our group’s success with the Kentucky hybrid school bus program is a major step toward the continued development, advancement and acceptance of hybrid systems to help improve fuel economy and reduce emissions,” said Thomas Clark, a territorial service manager for Eaton’s Vehicle Group.
Eaton provides special training for participating drivers, mechanics and first responders in Kentucky’s hybrid bus program, as well as a technical overview for local communities. For the next phase, KCFC has created a K–12 curriculum about hybrid-electric technology for science and match classes. The program, set to launch this fall, will bring on-site energy experts into local classrooms to enhance learning for students.
“Working with Eaton on this project has been one of the best partnerships we’ve ever had,” said KCFC Executive Director Melissa Howell. “The thing I love most is how the project has educated so many people — both adults and students — on the importance of hybrid vehicle technologies and the renewable energy industry.”
On average, hybrid school buses are 34 percent more fuel efficient than traditional diesel- powered models without requiring additional maintenance. The hybrids buses used across Kentucky are typically driven 10,000 to 15,000 miles each year and have a 14-year life.