Bus research shaping future of school transportation

Posted: December 20, 2022

The Center for Automotive Research (CAR) in conjunction with Columbus City Schools, Dublin City Schools and Thomas Built Buses are collaborating on a school bus project aimed at helping underserved communities.

Qadeer Ahmed, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, CAR Senior Research Associate Athar Hanif, and graduate research assistants Joon Moon and Satvik Khuntia are working on developing the optimal composition for the school bus fleet, meaning the ratio of electric to diesel (class A, B, C and D) buses. This ratio depends on the school bus routes and frequency of stops. On school bus routes with more frequent stops, electric buses are better and more economic. However, depending on the safety of the community the students are in, they may be able to have one drop off point for multiple students and therefore less bus stops.

4 males in front of red and silver background posing for photos
From left: Athar Hanif, Satvik Khuntia, Qadeer Ahmed and Joon Moon

Existing school districts have no electric school buses in their fleet. This research project will enable them to plan electric school buses based on the results of the fleet composition research and mobility analysis.

Battery load management is also a crucial part of this project. To better understand the battery pack requirements, the team is doing research on optimizing the powertrain for the electric school bus by looking at road loads and bus heating/cooling loads. This work also includes the development of optimal fleet composition and management algorithms for efficiently integrating electric school buses with the existing fleet of diesel buses. The team will also use fleet and community data along with high-fidelity climate control models to generate the climate control strategy for school buses to conserve the electric range. This research will aid local school districts when making important decisions about their school bus fleet.

Columbus City Schools wants to help underserved communities, and that’s just what the team is doing. Hanif says, “A community-aware, energy-efficient school bus system can save more dollars than its diesel counterparts. These saved dollars can in turn help the school district to provide better education, food and a healthy environment.”

Written by Cassie Forsha, CAR writing intern

Category: Research