For immediate release: May 17, 2000
Media Contact: Claudia Chandler -- 916 654-4989



State to Help Test High-Performance
Battery Pack for Electric School Buses



A cleaner, lighter and more efficient battery system to fit electric school buses in California will be built and tested through a $375,000 contract awarded today by the California Energy Commission to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD).

The contract represents the Commission's share to support phase two of a project to design, develop and demonstrate a high-capacity Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) battery. Matching funds for the $1.3 million endeavor will come from SMUD, the main contractor, and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In phase one of the project, the Energy Commission, through a $145,000 contract with OVONIC Battery Company of Troy, Michigan, tested and proved the validity of using NiMH batteries in California electric school buses.

The new NiMH 3.6-volt, 340 Amp-hour battery modules will be demonstrated on a Blue Bird electric bus operated by the Napa Valley Unified School District. This technology is lighter and has a life span longer than the batteries currently in use in electric school buses.

Today's standard electric school bus ranges 40-80 miles between charges using lead acid batteries weighing 7,400 pounds. When modified to use NiMH battery modules weighing less than 4000 pounds, a production school bus would double its range to about 80 to over 100 miles and have increased battery reliability and durability.

Transportation technology analysts at the Commission said the longer life batteries will improve the marketability of electric school buses, making them more competitive with diesel school buses, while reducing schoolchildren's exposure to carcinogens and other tail pipe emissions.

If demonstrated successfully, the new battery modules will result in the first full scale NiMH battery technology designed specifically for electric buses manufactured by Blue Bird Bus Company the nation's premier manufacturer of school buses for use in California and other parts of the country.

The batteries are being supplied by OVONIC, the original developer of NiMH batteries now currently in use in electric vehicles manufactured by General Motors, Toyota, Honda, Chrysler, Chevrolet and Ford.

The charge management system and high power charger are being provided by Monrovia, California-based AeroVironment Inc., an industry leader in energy management and advanced transportation technologies. SMUD, the State's exclusive distributor of the Delphi Magne-Charge inductive charging system, will provide technical support and charging system installation.

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