BC Transit (BCT), the provider of mass transit services in British Columbia (except for the Greater Vancouver region) has decided to forego purchasing hybrid buses in the short-term, opting instead for new diesels.
The decision came after an in-service evaluation of six New Flyer hybrid buses equipped with the GM-Allison hybrid drive deployed in two areas: Victoria and Kelowna. BCT compared the hybrids to its existing 1992-2003 generation New Flyer diesels, and to the new Nova diesel bus.
Although the hybrids offered better fuel consumption than both types of diesel, the difference was most pronounced with the older generation as fuel reduction in some cases ran as high as 28%. With the newer Nova buses, however, the difference was much smaller—around 8%. In the Kelowna service area, where the average speeds are higher and two of the hybrids were performing poorly, the difference between the hybrid and the Nova was only about 1%, and in some cases was worse.
BCT determined that the hybrids require 7 to 11 stops per kilometer to deliver their maximum benefit. Few of the routes in Victoria or Kelowna meet this criterion.
Officials determined that the savings realized from hybrids, calculated over the 20-year life expectancy of the buses, could not offset its comparatively expensive purchase price—hybrids cost roughly $800,000 while Nova diesels cost $500,000.
“There is no business case for buying hybrids,” said Ron Drolet, BC Transit vice-president of customer service. “For now we’re going with Nova buses,” Drolet said. “We do expect hybrids to become the standard once the price differential disappears. My sense is that will take about five years.”
BC Transit is continuing its pursuit of developing and deploying a fleet of hydrogen fuel-cell buses. In April, BC Premier Gordon Campbell announced that the province is providing C$45 million toward the production of 20 buses and development of hydrogen fueling stations in Whistler and Victoria. (Earlier post.)
The plan is to showcase the hydrogen fleet at the 2010 Winter Games in Whistler, and then place them into regular service after the Games.