ATTLEBORO — Two local firms are partners with a Boston green energy company in retrofitting shuttle buses to make them energy-efficient hybrid vehicles that use both gasoline and electricity.
Under the partnership, National Van Builders of Attleboro will add hybrid equipment developed by XL Hybrids of Boston to the shuttle buses and vans. Kiessling Transit of Norfolk will utilize them in its fleet.
National Van Senior Vice President Glen Perlman said his company has created a subsidiary called National Fleet Hybrid to do the work.
The company is located on Pine Street in Attleboro, but Perlman said hopes to find a new facility in Attleboro and hire more employees for the hybrid jobs.
The project is being funded with a $150,000 grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and $236,000 in matching private funding.
XL Hybrids won the grant and has developed the technology used to turn standard gasoline vans and shuttle buses into hybrids that use 20 percent less fuel and emit fewer greenhouse gases.
XL Vice President Justin Ashton said the hybrids are a response to companies that use large fleets of vehicles and are looking for ways to save money on fuel.
“There is a glaring lack of fuel efficiency and cost efficiency in vans and trucks,” he said.
Automakers do not offer a line of hybrid commercial vans or trucks, he said.
The technology his company has developed is already used to turn vans, such as those used to make deliveries of products, into hybrids. The retrofitting is done by adding an electric motor and battery to the gasoline engines already in the vans.
Now the firm is looking into expanding its offerings into shuttle buses, he said.
The grant and matching funds will produce hybrid shuttle buses that can be used to showcase the technology and attract more customers.
By using the hybrid technology, he said, a company can cut its fuel consumption by 500 to 700 gallons of gas a year per vehicle.
Transit authorities that offer shuttle bus service for the elderly and disabled could be potential customers, he said.
“We’re excited by this project. We think it has huge potential,” he said.
Alicia Barton, CEO of Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the agency that awarded the grant, said the center’s focus is primarily economic development.
She said the center invested in the XL project because of its potential for growth and job creation.
About 71,000 jobs in Massachusetts are related to clean energy. That is roughly equal to the population of Attleboro and North Attleboro combined, she said.
Clean energy jobs increased by 11 percent over the past year, making it one of the fastest growing sectors in the Massachusetts economy, she said.
The center gave out a total of $734,000 for six projects in its latest round of grants. With private matching funding, the total comes to $1.3 million. The grants are paid for through a surcharge levied against electric company customers.
JIM HAND can be reached at 508-236-0399 or at email@example.com.