In 1991, in the infancy of hybrid technology, the Hino Corporation of Japan introduced its biofriendly Blue Ribbon Hybrid City Bus. (1) Since that time, many other companies have followed suit. Toyota released its Coaster hybrid bus in 1997. Other corporations involved in manufacturing hybrid buses include Mitsubishi, Nissan, Isuzu, New Flyer and General Motors. (2)
A hybrid vehicle typically has a traditional internal combustion engine as well as an electric motor/generator and a battery storage device. Depending on the system, the drive power is provided by the engine or the electric motor. Excess energy is stored in the battery for later use when additional power is needed.
Hybrid buses, like hybrid cars, have a number of advantages over more traditional diesel or gasoline-powered vehicles. For example, the Orion VII Next Generation hybrid bus uses 30% less fuel than regular diesel buses and emits 90% less particulate matter, 40% less NOx (nitrous oxide) and 30% less greenhouse gases. All that, plus a cleaner, quieter ride. (3)
The Orion Company, now owned by Daimler, the world's largest bus manufacturer, started delivering biofriendly hybrid buses in 2005. Orion has combined manufacturing facilities in Canada and the United States. The body and chassis are assembled in Ontario, Canada, and then shipped to New York State, where assembly is completed by adding engine, transmission, seats, upholstery, electrical, etc. (4)
Toronto, San Francisco and New York were among the first cities to order hybrid buses from Orion. And in December 2007, New York City and Ottawa placed orders for 1,052 Orion VII Next Generation hybrid buses. This will make the New York hybrid bus fleet the largest in the world and Ottawa's the third largest in Canada.
General Motors is also a provider of hybrid buses. In May 2004, Seattle took delivery of the first of its order of 235 GM hybrid buses. These 60 feet long buses were assembled by New Flyer of Winnipeg. Over the estimated 12-year lifetime these 235 hybrid buses are expected to save 8 million gallons of fuel over conventional diesel-powered buses. According to GM estimates, if America's nine largest cities were to replace their diesel-powered buses with hybrids, they would save 40 million gallons of fuel a year. (5)
Additional benefits, aside from fuel savings and cleaner air, are improved acceleration, a quieter and smoother ride, and reduced maintenance costs. Disadvantages include higher purchase price and a newer, more complex technology.
The increased orders for hybrid buses seem to indicate that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Besides, the hybrid technology has been around for some time, which has made it possible to iron out some of the wrinkles and tended to push prices down. Moreover, many companies have made huge investments in this technology, giving them a vested interest in its success. And, not to forget, fears of global warming and dwindling oil reserves have given a strong impetus to reducing greenhouse emissions and the pursuit of renewable energy sources.
One company that has been active in making more effective use of our diminishing supply of fossil fuels is Biofriendly Corporation, whose Green Plus® liquid fuel catalyst provides a cleaner, more linear burn in internal combustion engines, with resulting improved fuel economy, higher torque and a reduction in harmful emissions.
For more information about Green Plus, visit the Biofriendly website at http://www.biofriendly.com.