University Launches New Shuttles with Hybrid Technology

Have you noticed the new vibrant blue and yellow shuttles on campus? Four of these were rolled out on campus mid-February this year in an effort to transform the University’s shuttles into cleaner and more energy-efficient vehicles. These shuttles are Ford Starcraft Allstar buses with XL hybrid technology (XLH). This technology saves fuel and reduces emissions through regenerative braking, helping to slow down and propel the vehicle during normal drive cycles.

The transportation sector is one of the largest contributors to anthropogenic U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. While traditional gas-powered commercial fleet vehicles perform critically important work, they also account for about 82% of the transportation sector’s GHG emissions and burn more fuel than any other vehicle on the road. XL Fleet provides simple, sustainable electrification solutions for Class 2-6 commercial and municipal vehicles which allows fleets to improve fuel economy and meet sustainability goals without compromising on operations or vehicle performance. The XLH system can be installed on a factory OEM (original equipment manufacturer) vehicle by adding an electric motor, an advanced lithium-ion battery pack, and control software. No other significant modifications to the vehicle are required, and no changes are made to the internal combustion engine or transmission. As a result, all factory OEM warranties remain intact.

Vehicles with XLH systems require no driver training and little to no operational changes from what they’re used to. The electric motor assist is smooth and seamless to the driver. University shuttle drivers have noticed that these shuttles are quieter to operate than some of the older shuttle models. Preliminary data from the University’s Department of Transportation and Parking Management also suggests that the new shuttles give at least a 10% MPG (miles per gallon) improvement compared to the old models. Regarding future plans for the University’s fleet of shuttles, Transportation Manager Andrea Walton from the transportation and parking department says, “The plan is to continue with hybrid technology and eventually move to electric once the technology advances for colder climates.”

As the number of University vehicles has been steadily increasing over the past several years and additional needs are anticipated due to the University’s continued growth and offsite expansion, the University is working on implementing a new vehicle fleet program to centralize University vehicle acquisition and maintenance. This program will help control costs while emphasizing safety, sustainability, and best practices. Currently, vehicle purchasing and expense decisions are made on a department level; the new University Fleet Program will allow all University vehicle acquisitions to be overseen and managed by University Facilities and Services (UF&S) in conjunction with Procurement. This program will not only allow the University to forecast future purchases but also re-purpose assets to limit cost while maximizing the vehicle’s useful life.


Written by Hanyia Ahmed, Class of 2022

Photos by Andrea Walton

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