Charlottesville Area Transit is starting to transition to hybrid buses, the city writes in a press release today. Functioning very much like hybrid cars, only with diesel engines, they seem ideally suited for the stop-and-go nature of bus travel. CAT (née CTS) has 35 buses in all—only 2 have been swapped out for hybrids, and it’ll take a decade for the remaining 33 to age out and be replaced. Although they’re not showing the whole balance sheet of added costs and savings, CAT points out that each bus will use $10,500 less fuel annually. Of course, the 25-30% reduction in fuel usage results in commensurate reductions in pollution. Noise pollution drops off more sharply, though—at 79 decibels, they’re only half as noisy as a standard bus.
Some may recall the city’s failed attempt to move to electric buses in the mid-nineties. As best as I can remember, it was a flop because the buses weren’t designed to handle hills, even the mild ones that we have in Charlottesville. They ran out of juice midway through the day, and the time that it took to charge the batteries took them out of service until the next day. More than a few people, recalling that old trolley system used a mule to haul the cars up Vinegar Hill, suggested that the arrangement could have been salvaged with the addition of some livestock.