Lee County Transit, known as LeeTran, operated by Lee County, is responsible to the Lee County Board of County Commissioners. LeeTran currently operates 17 bus routes. Sixteen of the bus routes operate on a scheduled fixed-route system at least six days per week. Six routes operate on Sundays. One route provides limited express bus service, by reservation, to Pine Island on Thursdays only.
LeeTran provides trolley service, branded as the “Trollee” along Fort Myers Beach and provides park-and-ride service connecting to the Fort Myers Beach trolley. The trolley system operates increased service during the peak season and a reduced schedule during off-peak season.
LeeTran collaborated with ISE, CUTR, FTA and the Florida Department of Transportation and Coach Crafters Inc. to build a gasoline hybrid bus. The goal of this partnership and project was to utilize different stakeholders and come together to build and operate a transit bus with zero emissions. Additionally, LeeTran wanted to incorporate the ISE power plant specifically in the design to test the propulsion system and fuel economy against other hybrid propulsion technologies.
This was a demonstration project and a collaborative effort of many people from Florida to California to retrofit an existing bus with a gasoline engine and a state-of-the-art propulsion system from ISE. LeeTran chose a Gillig 40-foot BRT package bus to be retrofitted for this project teamed up with a Ford V-10 gasoline engine and the ISE propulsion system. The propulsion system is unique in the sense that it does not use batteries to store electrical power for the drive motors. It utilizes the gasoline engine to power a Siemens generator that subsequently charges a super capacitor, which in turn sends power to a set of Siemens electrical drive motors connected to the existing drive train. (There is no driveline connection between the gasoline engine and the drive train.) This system also has the unique ability of utilizing the drive motors to act as generators during braking to maximize braking, and capitalize on electrical power generated from braking.
Meetings on Design
During the initial design of this new hybrid bus, the LeeTran maintenance manager and a senior technician from LeeTran visited the factory in California where the hybrid was constructed. This visit led to a series of collaborative meetings between ISE technical staff and LeeTran maintenance staff to train technicians on its systems. LeeTran Maintenance Manager Larry Ralston quickly identified the complexity of the system and chose one of his best technicians to be the project technical liaison for his team. Additionally, Coach Crafters Inc. of Tavares, Fla., was chosen as the vendor to provide local warranty support for the ISE systems.
Unlike the operations training, the maintenance training required in-depth explanations of the various systems since the ISE Hybrid technology encompasses many different and new electrical components not found in conventional diesel buses. ISE personnel were very helpful in providing on-site training and guidance throughout all phases of the project.
Moreover, it proved to be an important element before, during and after the completed project. Advances in new hybrid technologies while pertinent will present new challenges to maintenance personnel and transit systems alike.
Need for Specific Training
LeeTran personnel recognized the need for specific training (relating to the ISE technology) for bus operators, supervisors and maintenance employees. Moreover, Lee Tran staff reached out to local emergency responders to invite teams of firefighters and first responders alike to attend specialized training on this new vehicle.
Operations and maintenance department managers teamed up to accomplish basic training for bus operators as well as mechanics. ISE representatives were available during the training to promote safety awareness when working around high voltage lines and the super capacitor.