Although the attention of many in Detroit is on flex-fuel solutions for cars and trucks, there is another approach being worked in southeastern Michigan: A better bus. That’s right. Public transportation. Altair Engineering (Troy, MI; www.altair.com) and the Automation Alley Technology Center (Troy, MI; www.automationalley.com) have secured, in cooperation with the Michigan Economic Development Corp., a $2.2-million Federal Transportation Authority (FTA) grant to continue work on the Altair BUSolutions project (there was an earlier $550,000 federal grant). Although Detroit’s transportation infrastructure is heavily based on personal vehicles, there are public transportation authorities in the area, with which the people at Altair are working in order to understand the needs and requirements of buses.
Michael Heskitt, vp of Altair Global Engineering, observes, “Integrating the right technologies and methods tightly into the design process can have dramatic results. BUSolutions uses advanced optimization techniques in a design process that is fundamentally different than traditional approaches, while using conventional construction methods, materials and components. The result is a transit bus design that is 30% lighter and 40% less expensive to own, at a 15% lower manufacturing cost. Reduced weight means lower fuel consumption; less wear on city streets and regional roads; reduced brake and tire wear; and reduced noise and pollution.”
Two demonstration buses will be built as part of the program. Once they’ve been fully tested, analyzed, and evaluated, Altair Engineering is to commercialize the technology and make it available for public use.