American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings, Inc. (AAM), joined Ford Motor Company and three other automotive suppliers in the development of a prototype hybrid bus for airport shuttle and mass transit use. AAM designed and integrated several components of the driveline system for the hybrid vehicle including the rear axle, rear driveshaft, electric motor mounting, and parking brake system.

Called the “FASTM Bus,” the prototype was completed 90 days after the first meeting was held to conceive and design it.

The conversion of the traditional internal combustion bus to a hybrid vehicle was accomplished through the utilization of advanced hybrid-electric technology. A generator, driven by a Ford 4.2-litre engine operating on propane (LP) gas, charges a pack of 28 lead-acid batteries with electricity to power the bus. The hybrid system captures energy normally wasted during idle, eliminates particulate emissions, uses regenerative braking to capture energy during braking to charge the batteries, and allows operation with the engine off (zero emission mode) in environmentally sensitive areas.

Because the drivetrain of the FASTM bus does not include a transmission, the driveline system was modified by AAM and standard components were replaced with an advanced 10.5-inch PowerLite axle and PowerDense(TM) technology to maximize axle efficiency and performance. The axle is powered from the rear by the electric drive motor.

“The unique rearward axle configuration allows the propane fuel tanks to be located forward of the axle between the frame rails, enhancing safety and system packaging while delivering power in the most efficient manner,” says Daniel V. Sagady P.E., vice president Engineering & Product Development.

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