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Hybrid bus dilemma: Do benefits justify extra cost?

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Joined: 16 Apr 2007
Posts: 1063

PostPosted: Wed Oct 22, 2014 8:20 am    Post subject: Hybrid bus dilemma: Do benefits justify extra cost? Reply with quote

From Ann Arbor, Michigan:

MLive - Hybrid bus dilemma: AAATA not sure environmental benefits justify extra cost

The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority is known in part for its large fleet of hybrid buses, which burn through less fuel, generate fewer emissions and make slightly less noise than conventional diesel buses.

But despite promises of a cleaner environment and less reliance on fossil fuels, AAATA officials are starting to rethink hybrids.

"The fuel savings aren't enough to pay for their additional upfront cost, even over the life of the vehicle, so you have to specifically decide that you're going to do it for environmental or other reasons," said AAATA board chairman Charles Griffith, climate and energy policy director at the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor.

The AAATA has used federal grants to cover the incrementally higher cost of past hybrid purchases about $200,000 extra per bus.

But now the agency is facing the prospect of purchasing dozens of additional buses as it expands services, and AAATA officials don't believe hybrids make financial sense without the grants, which aren't available at this time.

Click the link to read the rest of the article. It also includes a link to AAATA's own report exploring the costs associated with hybrid bus operation.

This article confirms some of what I've heard anecdotally about hybrid buses not quite living up to their economical promise and especially about the higher than expected maintenance costs, particularly battery replacements. I'm aware of one mid-sized transit agency that has been struggling with finding money to replace the batteries in its fleet of Allison-powered hybrids. The AAATA report includes an interesting quote from a Gillig representative indicating that their hybrid sales are down by about half since 2010.

Jim D.
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Age: 68
Joined: 23 Dec 2008
Posts: 456
Location: Louisville, Kentucky

PostPosted: Sat Nov 08, 2014 1:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In short: No.

And the fuel savings are negligible.

Hybrid and battery buses are basically a gimmick that makes for a good press release and possibly a few words on the evening news. Otherwise, it is a great way to spend money we don't have on technology that is not ready for prime time.

There, I said it.

We have 10 Proterra Battery Buses on the way (8 delivered as of yesterday), at almost a $ million apiece, and two charging stations at $750k each plus construction costs. Savings? Probably not. Our electric utility sets its tariff based upon usage during 15-minute quadrants and guess what? The routes we will be using them on will have at least two re-charge cycles during each 15 minute interval, so the energy cost will likely be more than diesel fuel for a standard diesel bus!

Meanwhile, we are still running 15-year old buses that are failing at an alarming rate, our service cost is higher than our income and sooner or later we're going to run out of other people's money to spend.


BYD demonstrator in Louisville. Nice-driving bus, but at the time their bus had not passed Altoona testing and they could not assure "Buy America" compliance.
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