Westinghouse plans electric-powered buses


In a major expansion of its plans to develop an electric car the local Westinghouse division said yesterday that it had teamed up with the world's largest maker of school buses to produce buses powered by electric engines.

Under terms of its agreement with Blue Bird Corp. of Macon, Ga., the Westinghouse Electronic Systems Group in Linthicum will lead the development program and supply the power system.

"This partnership will be a big step forward in applying our electric vehicle propulsion systems to transit vehicles," said Kelly C. Overman, general manager of systems development and engineering at the local Westinghouse division.

As one option, the two companies are considering a hybrid power source that would include an electric motor to supplement a low-emission engine that runs on natural gas.

Other options include a fully battery-powered bus or one that runs off electrical lines, like a trolley.

"I think the reception for electric buses will be good if the performance is what we believe it will be," said Paul Glaske, president of Blue Bird.

Mr. Glaske said the company hoped to have electric-powered buses ready for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Blue Bird, which produces about 15,000 buses a year, will produce the prototype buses and install the Westinghouse propulsion units.

Westinghouse has been working to develop electric propulsion systems, which it hopes will move to low-rate production early next summer.

Westinghouse revealed its involvement in the electric vehicle industry 15 months ago, when it announced that it had teamed with Chrysler Corp. on the development of an electric vehicle that the two companies hope will be commercially viable by the late 1990s.

The two companies are expected to invest about $10 million in developing a vehicle that will zip along the highway at up to 75 mph and travel 200 miles between recharges.

The auto industry -- both foreign and domestic -- is putting new emphasis on electric cars, partly as a result of a California law requiring that 2 percent of an automaker's sales in the state be free of emissions by 1998. The percentage is scheduled to rise to 10 percent by 2003.

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