Friday, May 28, 2004

Seattle begins using hybrid transit buses

By John Porretto
The Associated Press

General Motors Corp.'s advanced hybrid technology will be used on transit buses in the Seattle area beginning next month, eventually creating the nation's largest fleet of diesel-electric hybrid buses.

King County leaders took delivery of the first of 235 buses Thursday at Seahawks Stadium.

The 60-foot mass-transit vehicles, which are more expensive than standard diesel buses, deliver up to 60 percent greater fuel economy and can reduce emissions by as much as 90 percent, GM said.

The new buses will account for about 15 percent of King County Metro Transit's 1,300-vehicle fleet. Sound Transit Regional Express also will use the new vehicles.

County transit officials say they expect the hybrid buses to save roughly 750,000 gallons of fuel a year.

"These buses save energy and are cleaner and quieter than conventional buses for the millions of people who ride our transit system," said King County Executive Ron Sims.

Hybrids draw power from two energy sources, typically a gas or diesel engine combined with an electric motor. One of the ways the buses conserve fuel is by storing electricity generated when they brake, then using that electricity as a power source when the bus leaves from a stop.

King County secured $5 million in federal funding to help pay for the new buses, which the county has said cost $645,000 each - $200,000 more than a standard bus.

"Federal funding of hybrid technology is money well spent, and I'll continue to encourage other states, counties and cities across the country to get on board with similar hybrid programs," said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Caterpillar Inc. based in Peoria, Ill., is supplying the diesel engines.

GM, the world's largest automaker, and every one of its major competitors are investing heavily in hybrid technology, primarily for cars and trucks.

For now only Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. sell hybrid passenger cars in the United States. GM recently began selling a "mild" hybrid pickup, and Ford is scheduled to introduce a hybrid sport-utility vehicle this summer.

Already, Orange County, Calif., and Philadelphia are among the places using GM hybrid technology on transit buses. GM said more orders are pending.

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