- The Washington Times - Friday, January 16, 2009

When you think of clean air, environmentally friendly vehicles and fuel efficiency, New York City isn’t the first place that comes to mind, right? I sure didn’t think so, until I realized one day that the bus I was riding in downtown bore the signage, “Clean Air Hybrid Electric Bus.” That was enough to get this journalist doing some research on hybrid buses in the Big Apple.

Here’s the surprise: 900 out of the 6,000 buses in the New York metropolitan area are hybrid-fuel vehicles and approximately 1,100 buses run on low-emission natural gas. And New York’s hybrid fleet is growing.

By the end of 2009, Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the NYC Transit and Bus will add 850 new low-floor hybrid electric buses to its green garage. They will be manufactured by DaimlerChrysler Commercial Buses North America.

“The MTA’s transportation network makes the entire region sustainable and we are committed to making the system itself a sustainable model,” said Elliot G. Sander, executive director and CEO of the MTA. “Along with the sustainable commission that we launched this fall, the continuing purchase of environmentally friendly vehicles illustrates this commitment.”

In fact, MTA and NYC Transit pioneered the development of hybrid bus technology more than 12 years ago. In 1995, they started replacing engines on their buses, giving them cleaner-running systems.

“We completely reengineered older engines to cleaner, newer ones,” says Gary LaBouff, director of research and development for NYC Transit.

Additionally, New York City made a major push for hybrid bus systems as early as 1996 when they got early prototypes of the hybrid bus. Today, NYC Transit claims that the Big Apple has the largest hybrid fleet in the world.

NYC Transit has used several other innovations to improve air quality, including ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, particulate filters and cleaner-burning diesel engines.

“We’re always looking for something better,” remarked Mr. LaBouff, noting that they are currently rolling out biodiesel to 5 percent of the fleet.

“Hybrid technology is 10 years old. We are looking at more electrical vehicles and hydrogen powered fuel cells. But that’s the future — it’s still 10 years out,” adds Mr. LaBouff.

As for now, those hydrogen fuel-cell buses run two to three million dollars apiece and hydrogen isn’t readily available.

The bottom line: From 1995 to 2006, diesel particle emissions dropped 97 percent and NOx emissions dropped 58 percent, on a per-bus basis. As for miles per gallon, hybrid buses average a 30 percent improvement over an average bus. That translates to 2.8 mpg for regular buses; 3.2 mpg for hybrids. Mr. LaBouff notes, “The tank carries 110 gallons but the hybrids never get too far from home, they come in at least two times a day. It’s not like driving to Florida and back.” In stop and go traffic, those hybrid electric buses shine.

So, the next time you hear someone ranting about pollution in cities give them an earful about New York City’s hybrid bus system. It’s earning some bragging rights.


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