Diversified industrial manufacturer Eaton Corporation was part of the Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition (KCFC) team, along with the Kentucky Department of Education, that received the first-ever Visionary Leadership Award from the Southeast Diesel Collaborative Group (SEDC). SEDC is part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Clean Diesel Campaign to reduce pollution emitted from diesel engines.
The KCFC team provides hybrid-electric school buses to the state of Kentucky under a $12 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Energy. Eaton assembles the hybrid system, including the clutch, electric motor, battery and six-speed automated transmission, at its facility in Kings Mountain, NC.
Kentucky has the largest hybrid school bus fleet in the U.S., with 162 active buses – all of which contain Eaton hybrid systems. Another six hybrid buses are on order. The Thomasville and International buses are built on the same production line as models with conventional powertrains.
The hybrid buses on average are 34 percent more fuel efficient than traditional diesel-powered models. In some cases fuel consumption has been cut in half, depending on driving cycles and styles. The buses, which are used in a wide range of school districts across Kentucky, are typically driven 10,000 to 15,000 miles per year and have a 14-year life.
"Working with Eaton on this project has been one of the best partnerships we've ever had," said Melissa Howell, executive director of the Kentucky Fuels Coalition. "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."
SEDC created the Visionary Leadership award to recognize projects that exemplify extraordinary leadership and serve as a role model for others to follow.
"We are honored to receive this award," said Thomas Clark, a territorial service manager for Eaton's Vehicle Group. "The program is a great opportunity for Eaton to work with like-minded organizations. 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."
As part of Kentucky's hybrid bus program, Eaton offers special training for participating drivers, mechanics and first responders. It also provides a technical overview for local communities. For the next phase, KCFC has created a K-12 curriculum about hybrid-electric technology. The goal of the program, which launches this fall, is to better engage local students with on-site energy experts, and allow teachers to use the information for science and math classes.