Eaton Hybrid Systems Are Top of the Class
“We have been a longtime proponent of implementing sustainable business practices. Whenever it is feasible to go green, we do. In fact, our entire fleet fully complies with the new federal emission regulations, and the company has supported the hybrid buses from the start.”
General manager, Groome Transportation, Inc.
Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., was established in 1856 and has since developed into one of the largest universities in the southern United States. Some 140 degrees are available in 13 schools and colleges at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels.
The school annually serves as the temporary home to more than 25,000 students.
All students can take advantage of the transport services provided by Groome Transportation, Inc., which operates a fleet of 63 shuttle buses nearly round-theclock to transport students to and from classes. Running daily until 3 a.m., the shuttle buses have been a part of the campus since 2000.
That same year, Clarence Cobb arrived at the school as a bus driver for Groome. He quickly advanced to the positions of assistant manager, manager and, eventually, to his current position as general manager.
Soon after taking on his latest title, Cobb was approached by officials at Auburn to find a way to cut fuel costs. The university, says Cobb, was also interested in finding a more environmentally friendly solution for transporting its students.
The shuttle buses were consuming roughly 1,800 gallons of diesel a day. But that’s what was required in order to accommodate the 10,000 to 15,000 students who relied on the Groome fleet every day.
The buses were averaging roughly 210 miles per day with frequent stops and starts – a duty cycle that is also an ideal scenario for hybrid power.
Responding to the Auburn directive, the Groome corporate office in Richmond, Va., investigated several suppliers to find the best solution.
“They determined that Eaton had the top systems out there,” says Cobb, who eventually took delivery of six Freightliner M2 chassis with Eaton hybrid electric power systems.
The hybrid system employs a parallel-type diesel-electric hybrid architecture, which includes an electric motor and generator between the output of an automated clutch and input of the transmission. The system recovers energy normally lost during braking and stores that energy in batteries. When electric torque is blended with engine torque, the stored energy is used to improve fuel economy and vehicle performance, which is ideal for stop-and-go applications.
Eaton’s report card at Auburn has also been impressive, and the results of a fuel analysis study conducted there provide the proof.
The study compared the fuel consumption of two nearly identically specified buses. One vehicle had traditional power with a torque-converter automatic transmission, and the other vehicle was powered by the Eaton hybrid system with an automated transmission. Drivers, stops and routes were exactly the same to best provide an apples-to-apples comparison.
The top apple – the Eaton hybrid bus – saw a 33-percent improvement in fuel economy, which correlates to fuel use reduction of some 1,200 gallons per year. With six units now in operation, that translates to an annual reduction of about 7,200 gallons.
Meanwhile harmful carbon dioxide emissions are being reduced by close to 72 metric tons.
Numbers like that add up to a passing grade for Cobb and Groome.
“I love the buses and I love the Eaton systems,” says Cobb. “We have not had any major issues, and the problems that we did encounter were easily corrected with the diagnostic equipment and software that Eaton gave to us.”
He also cites lower maintenance costs as an additional benefit, adding, “It helps save on the wear and tear of the buses. The shifts are right and done correctly so you don’t have a lot of jerking that will just rip apart a bus.”
The university, he notes, has also been pleased, and so has his employer, Groome.
“We have been a longtime proponent of implementing sustainable business practices,”says Cobb. ”Whenever it is feasible to go green, we do. In fact, our entire fleet fully complies with the new federal emission regulations, and the company has supported the hybrid buses from the start.” His local Roadranger field representatives have been equally supportive.
“They have just been awesome,” he says. “When they found out that we were taking delivery of the six buses, they called me and came down here to give our drivers and mechanics the necessary training. Now they continue to call on us at least once or twice a month, checking on us, making sure we have everything we need, giving us software updates and making sure we are not having any problems. I don’t get that kind of support from any of the other vendors that work with us.”
Cobb says he’s hoping to soon tap into similar Roadranger support to help convince Auburn to buy additional hybrid buses.
“I want to line up a meeting with the university soon and have Eaton show firsthand what they have to offer,” says Cobb. “I’d ideally like to purchase another six to 10 hybrid buses and incorporate the units into our fleet.”