Loveland company retrofitting new kind of hybrid

LOVELAND - Loveland Colt riders might notice something a little different with the bus they are riding on.

It accelerates like any other bus and it handles like other mass transit vehicles, but commuters might notice a difference when it stops.

"There is a different noise to it," said Loveland mayor Cecil Gutierrez. "And yes, there are questions that are asked about that."

The sound isn't actually the brakes riders are hearing. Instead it's a new hydraulic system that Loveland company, Lightning Hybrids, LLC., installed on one of Loveland's fleet buses. The sound is the system compressing and pressurizing hydraulic liquid in a closed-loop system.

The energy re-pressurizes the system, saving wear and tear on brakes.

In return, when the bus accelerates again, the liquid will be pumped through the system, turning the drive train. Lightning Hybrid president Tim Reeser said the hydraulic system powers the bus up to 35 mph, when the conventional combustible engine takes over.

"You've got essentially 10 seconds during that braking cycle to recover all of that energy in that vehicle," Reeser said. "We can do it with hydraulics in a much more efficient way."

Reeser said the system harnesses that kinetic energy that would normally be expended as heat and friction at the brake pads and changes it into 40 percent fuel savings for fleet vehicles.

"These vehicles, it's not unusual for a trash truck to burn 60-100 gallons a day," he said.

For heavy-duty vehicles that average 1-2 mpg, 40 percent less fuel used can translate into big annual savings. Reeser said Lighting Hybrids' system pays off the initial investment within two years in fuel savings and maintenance costs -- it reduces stress on the engine and brake pad replacement.

Lightning Hybrids is currently retrofitting two fleet trucks for Colorado State University, a catering truck and a mail delivery truck. They are expected to be put in service in March.

For Gutierrez, it is a win-win situation. The City of Loveland can cut down on transit costs while also supporting a local company.

"They get an opportunity to test their products and we get the savings in the fuel, so it is a win-win," he said.

To learn more about Lightning Hybrids, you can visit their website here.

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