California Energy Commission Awards SMUD $375,000 to Develop Battery for Electric School Buses

May 23, 2000 by Jeff Shepard

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 (Sacramento, CA), 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 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 the first phase of the project, the Energy Commission, through a $145,000 contract with Ovonic (Troy, MI), 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.The longer-life batteries should 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. The batteries are being supplied by Ovonic.