The San Francisco Municipal Agency (MUNI) is embracing the hybrid diesel-electric bus as an environmentally responsible alternative to traditional diesel buses.
“Many of our residents have already made the switch to hybrid vehicles, and it is time we follow suit,” said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom at a June 1 press conference on the steps of City Hall.
Parked at the curb outside City Hall was an Orion VII hybrid diesel-electric, low-floor bus manufactured by Orion Bus Industries and featuring a hybrid drive system by BAE Systems.
This prototype bus has been operated by MUNI for several months. It will be followed by the delivery of 56 production models in the fall, which will make MUNI, a division of the Municipal Transit Agency (MTA), the third-largest operator of hybrid diesel-electric buses in the U.S.
“This clean-air bus will bring us one step closer to reaching the MTA’s goal of being emissions-free in San Francisco by 2020,” said Nathaniel Ford, executive director and CEO of the MTA. Ford said the prototype hybrid bus has performed well during its testing period.
Attending the event were representatives of DaimlerChrysler Commercial Buses North America, including Andreas Strecker, president and CEO, and Patrick Scully, chief commercial officer.
During a media roundtable following the press conference, Scully predicted that hybrid buses will account for about 50% of the transit bus market in the next three to five years.
Although hybrid buses can cost as much as 33% more than their traditional diesel counterparts, Scully said, their operational savings make them more affordable over the life of the bus. He said typical fuel economy for a hybrid bus is about 4 mpg, compared to 3 mpg for a standard diesel bus.
Tom Webb, business development manager for BAE’s transit bus division, said the hybrid drive system, in addition to helping achieve better fuel economy, is also more reliable than a straight diesel engine. “It has fewer parts overall and fewer moving parts as well,” he said. “The drive motor will exceed the life of the bus.” He added that brake life will be significantly extended with hybrid propulsion, also leading to reduced costs.