September 13-20, 2004

Hybrid, bio-diesel buses help cities cut transportation-related emissions

By the end of 2004, 309 New Flyer heavy-duty hybrid urban transit buses will be operating throughout North America, accumulating over one million revenue service miles, and reducing airborne emissions by up to 90%.

John Marinucci, president and CEO of the Winnipeg-based bus manufacturer, said "a significant portion of our production is dedicated to hybrids in 2004. Our customers have had great success with their hybrid programs and New Flyer has emerged as the industry leader in this field. Hybrid technology serves as a springboard for near-zero and zero-emission buses, while reducing our reliance on imported, non-renewable fossil fuels," he added.

"We started evaluating hybrid technology in 1995 and delivered our first vehicle in 1998 to Orange County, California," noted Paul Smith, the company's executive vice-president of sales and marketing. New Flyer produces clean diesel, diesel-electric, gasoline-electric, natural gas and electric trolley powertrains in 30-, 35-, 40-, and 60-foot configurations.

Recent environmental research has demonstrated that diesel-electric and gasoline-electric hybrids significantly reduce both nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) emissions and operating expenditures for transit agencies, relative to traditional diesel and natural gas buses. Hybrid-electric buses efficiently blend engine power with electric power during operation. When stopping or decelerating, regenerative braking is captured and converted to electric energy, storing it in batteries located on the roof of the vehicle. Fuel savings can be up to 40%, with emissions reduced by up to 90%. Operational savings are derived from reduced wear on mechanical components.

Recent changes to California emission laws - the most stringent in North America - now allow the purchase of diesel-electric hybrids for transit bus fleets. New Flyer hybrids are operating in Orange County and San Bernardino, with future deliveries planned for Long Beach, Norwalk, Montebello, City of Commerce, Fresno and Gardena. Large cities in several other U.S. states are operating the hybrid buses as well, with more to be added soon, including Victoria, BC.

ISE Research Corporation, in San Diego, California, developed the gasoline-electric hybrid technology, as well as other alternative propulsion technologies. New Flyer's GE40LF is currently the only certified hybrid drive system in California and the lowest emission, heavy-duty bus drive system of any tested by the California Air Resources Board.

Greening Toronto's bus fleet

In Toronto, meanwhile, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) last week began its move toward "Greening the Bus Fleet" with its launch of a nine-month bio-fuel test on 180 buses. The project will test the use of bio-diesel fuel, a mixture of vegetable oil and diesel, focusing on two areas: environmental performance under TTC service conditions and evaluation of test results from other transit properties. The test project will cost $740,000.

"Although TTC buses meet current emission standards, we are intent on finding better ways to reduce vehicle exhaust emissions even further," said TTC Chair Howard Moscoe.

Technical success will be measured by the absence of any mechanical or operating issues associated with the maintenance and driving of the buses. Final acceptance of the bio-diesel fuel will depend on evaluations of various factors, including the cost difference associated with the price per litre (higher for bio-diesel) and the energy content per litre (lower for bio-diesel). Environmental issues illustrating losses and gains associated with the use of bio-diesel fuel will be examined as well.

"Bio-diesel is expected to provide environmental benefits resulting from lower emissions. This test is needed to confirm these expectations and to consider expanded use of bio-diesel across the entire bus fleet," said TTC Chief General Manager Rick Ducharme. The TTC has a bus fleet of about 1,500.

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