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CABS rolls out diesel-electric hybrid buses

Photo courtesy of Ohio State Transportation and Parking.

Hybrid technology reserved for small cars is now available for larger automotive vehicles. The Department of Transportation and Parking at Ohio State has purchased two diesel-electric powered hybrid buses for the Campus Area Bus Service.

The plan to purchase the buses was set in motion in 2010 after the Central Ohio Transit Authority purchased similar hybrid buses.

The hybrid buses are manufactured by GILLIG and according to the company’s website, “The mass transit vehicles are a variant of the low floor model, powered by a clean diesel hybrid electrical propulsion system.”

Thomas Holman, the assistant director of transportation operations for the Department of Transportation and Parking, oversees the transportation, fleet and maintenance areas of the department. He is responsible for the purchase of the buses, right down to the fabric on the seats.

He explained the goal of purchasing the buses is to exceed a 25 percent increase in fuel economy in the buses. Other benefits include reduction in emissions, and decreased noise pollution from the smaller engine and lower revolutions per minute.

“The buses get roughly 25 percent better fuel economy, reduce CO2 emissions by about 50 percent and reduce maintenance costs,” Holman said. “The majority of the maintenance savings is in the brakes. The buses use a regenerative braking system which considerably extends the life of the brakes. Additionally, the buses have smaller engines and require less fluids so there is a reduction in preventive maintenance as well.”

Transportation and Parking is working on a number of initiatives to support Scarlet, Gray & Green, the university-wide sustainability and energy efficiency effort, the hybrid buses are among them.

According to Sarah Blouch, executive director of the Department of Transportation and Parking, the hybrid buses get six to seven miles to the gallon, but are a cleaner alternative to the current buses. Holman said the normal buses get about four-and-a-half miles to the gallon. Holman said the department would continue to collect data over the year for an accurate assessment of the hybrid’s fuel efficiency.

Blouch said a downfall of the buses is the initial cost.

“A regular bus cost $385,000 and the new buses cost $584,000, but when compared with the amount of people the bus can carry and the expected life of each bus, they are quite efficient.” Blouch said.

The standard duty cycle of one of the hybrid buses is 12 years.

“We were looking to embrace a fossil fuel alternative; these buses are a pilot test to see if, in the long run, the buses are cost efficient” Blouch said.

Phoebe Low, a third-year in environmental engineering, said that though she only rides the bus once or twice a week. Low said she thinks the new hybrid buses are a step in the right direction.

“With all of the buses operating around campus, it can’t be good for the environment,” Low said. “It will be slow to make a difference, but the buses will eventually help implement a change on campus.”

Low also said that she will ride the bus more often knowing there are hybrid options.

“The green alternative effort needs support,” Low said.

The new hybrid buses began running on CABS routes on Sept. 19. One of the buses is currently running on North Express. The other bus is expected to run on the Central Connector route, according to Holman.

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