Transit System Moving to Hybrids

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.

4 thoughts on “Transit System Moving to Hybrids”

  1. One hopes (but does not actually expect) that the people who researched this, and made this choice, are more competent than they were when they chose the demonstrably unsuitable electric toys.

    And what of the cost of purchasing the new buses, and their track record for longevity and maintenance? Fuel savings are but one component of the budget, and not the largest one.

    The city that abhors frugality, and has a history of expensive blunders, strikes out again for new territory without any public oversight.

    When you don’t learn from the blunders of history, you make them again and again.

  2. I believe federal grant funds were used in part or whole to purchase the new vehicles, so from the standpoint of the city, the reduction operating costs is an immediate gain.

    Diesel-electric hybrid buses are not new. Much larger transit system have been using them for a decade plus.

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