As the Chicago area again deals with spiking fuel prices, Pace and the City of Highland Park debuted two new, hybrid buses that can reduce the suburban bus agency's fuel usage and pave the way to further use of green technology. The 30-foot buses began operating local routes in Highland Park earlier this month.
The buses are powered by a BAE Systems diesel-electric hybrid drive system which, similar to hybrid automobiles on the market, switches between an electric motor and a diesel engine to conserve fuel and reduce exhaust emissions. The emission control system is further enhanced by the use of a special filter that traps soot and other matter in the diesel exhaust to keep those particles from polluting the air.
The bus manufacturer, Orion, based in North Carolina, estimates a 25% fuel savings for the hybrids versus buses that run solely on diesel. Pace will monitor the actual fuel savings and plans to use the hybrid buses in conditions and operating environments that will maximize the fuel savings.
The buses seat up to 29 passengers and can accommodate up to two mobility devices. They were ordered in late 2010 at a cost of roughly $525,000 each and were delivered to Pace in late 2011. The vehicles feature a unique green paint scheme with white accents, making them easily identifiable to riders familiar with Pace's blue and white buses.
The City of Highland Park operates three Pace bus routes within the city and neighboring communities for Pace under an operating agreement that dates back roughly 35 years. In recent years, the city has been very supportive of Pace's efforts to bring green technology into the agency's fleet.