Troy, MI., Dec. 15, 2004 - Altair Engineering and Automation Alley’s Technology Center secured a federal grant today in the amount of $550,000, sponsored by U.S. Representative Joe Knollenberg (R-Bloomfield Township), to aid in designing and building two advanced technology prototype buses. The buses will demonstrate ways to revitalize the public bus transportation system in the United States through improvements in maintenance, fuel economy, emissions and passenger comfort. The Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the SMART bus service operating in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties, will each receive one of the prototype buses for regular transit use and evaluation.

"Public bus transportation is a key component to meeting our region's transportation needs," said Representative Knollenberg. "To realize its promise, however, bus fleets must be brought into the 21st Century. I am excited by the promise that the bus prototypes to be produced by Automation Alley and Altair Engineering have for addressing the challenges public transportation systems face with their buses."

Altair Engineering and Automation Alley will work together to implement numerous ways to enhance public transportation and fleet operations. For example, the demonstration buses will be built in a modular format, allowing for quicker, less complex and less costly replacement of critical systems when problems arise. Additionally, sensors and telematics services will be installed to offer effective preventative maintenance in order to avoid expensive repairs. Currently, maintenance costs comprise 21 percent of an average U.S. city transit system’s budget.

The demonstration buses will also help decrease overall operating cost through lowering fuel consumption. Each bus will be 34 percent lighter and 30 inches shorter than current designs, resulting in significant fuel economy improvements. These increases are particularly important given the Department of Energy’s plan to increase fuel economy for buses from three to six miles per gallon to nine miles per gallon by 2010.

Alternative powertrain options will also be explored for the prototype buses, with the potential for hybrid electric, fuel cell and natural gas capabilities. These advanced powertrain technologies assist in decreasing air pollution generated from today’s buses and also lower noise levels to provide a more desirable experience for passengers.

"This project will result in some significant, tangible benefits for this country’s current bus system," said Mike Heskitt, Altair Engineering’s vice president of global engineering. "For example, we estimate that the cost of ownership will decrease by 40 percent for those transit authorities that adopt this advanced bus design."

"Automation Alley is excited to partner with Altair Engineering for this venture," said Tom Anderson, director of the Automation Alley Technology Center. "This collaboration is another example of the leadership role the Southeast Michigan region is taking in the country on emerging technology issues."

"Automation Alley is very grateful for the support we have received from Congressman Knollenberg, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)," said Ken Rogers, executive director, Automation Alley. "Michigan is fortunate to have such strong advocates for Michigan’s advanced manufacturing sector in Congress."

Michael Kidder

Altair Engineering, Inc.

(248) 614-2400, ext. 269

Colleen Kmiecik
Marx Layne & Company



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