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King County, Washington to More than Triple Its Fleet of Hybrid Buses with $400M Contract

King County, Washington today awarded New Flyer Industries a contract for the purchase of up to 500 articulated buses, most of which will be powered by General Motors’ 2-mode hybrid system. The five-year contract could be worth as much as $400 million.

King County has been operating a fleet of 214 GM hybrid-powered buses since 2004. With the addition of this contract, King County could have a total of 714 buses, giving it the largest fleet of hybrid-articulated buses in history.

Innovative public-private partnerships such as this put King County in a leadership position to help combat global warming. We will put a new rapid transit bus service on the streets with the first 122 articulated hybrids ordered. The size of this contract demonstrates our commitment to transit and the resulting benefits to our residents for improved air quality and traffic congestion.

—King County Executive Ron Sims

Currently, 720 buses with GM’s 2-mode hybrid system have been delivered to 56 cities across the US and Canada. The potential addition of up to 500 buses in King County will bring the North American total to more than 1,200 GM hybrid-powered, saving an estimated 1.75 million gallons of fuel annually.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) conducted a one-year comparative study between conventional diesel buses and GM hybrid-powered buses operating on a typical King County drive cycle. Results showed that the GM-hybrid powered buses lowered fuel consumption by 23%; NOxby 18%; carbon monoxide (CO) by 60%; and total hydrocarbon (THC) by 56% when compared to conventional diesel buses.



Bike Commuter Dude

Oil prices. Gotta love 'em. High oil prices are the ONLY reason ANY city in America is buying/considering hybrids. With exception to a few cities (Portland, OR, Minneapolis, MN, etc.), the decision making process is based more on cost-benefit analysis than environmental stewardship.
Question: If you do the right thing, *for the wrong reason*, is it still right?


Is it really necessary for the "right thing" to be done for a reason you agree with in order for it to be palatable to you? Can't two people, one of which desires energy security, the other who desires doing something about climate change, agree on a similar course of action for different reasons?

Frankly, it's a fallacy that everyone has to march lockstep ideologically in order to agree on something. But in today's hyper-partisan atmosphere, I guess the "right reason" has more weight than it really should, IMO. This is why we spend so much time arguing instead of finding common ground.


Ummm, Kings County ordered their inital 214 hybrid buses in 2003 when gas was half today's price.

Stan Peterson

This is much more significant than any "Demonstration Experiment" of a one-off prototype. This is a production order replacing a substantial portion of King County's bus fleet. It is also a nice purchase and confirmation of the GM dual-mode hybrid technology.

There is another benefit. The more experience and success with the dual mode hybrid drive the better. It will help the engineers to perfect the digital control systems that optimize the hybrid's potential. That optimization task offers the prospect of further marginal improvement without any further investment other than a new and improved software load.

It also offers the engineers an opportunity to see if there are design improvements in the dual mode technology itself. For example, the dual mode has 4 fixed speed gear ratios, yet 5, 6, and 7 speed transmissions have shown to be marginally even more efficient. Perhaps a future dual mode will have a six speed transmission.


It also seems to make the bus alot cheaper or did anyone notice its only 800k per bus now?


Now if we would only replace those lame Breda trollybus things with a decent series hybrid.

Bud Johns

Stan is, as the teenies say, SOO right. These buses have been around a while. The ones in Tampa have the battery packs attached to the roof, streamlined, of course. They take off with very little smoke and noise. I wish I could have ridden one before I left the area, but from what reseach I've done, they are the real deal. This coming from a Prius driver, who does not bash GM when they do something good. There are quite a few of these buses out there in the states, and as Stan so correctly pointed out they can optimize the system with improved software along the line.........


Quite interesting report of automotive journalist test-drive of GM hybrid bus, with technical details and pictures:

BTW, this hybrid drivetrain was developed to satisfy extremely tough smog-forming emission standards for city transit buses of CARB/EPA. GHG reduction was not such popular at the time.

Major competitors of GM/Allison hybrid buses are Daimler-Benz spin-off Orion with very similar hybrid bus, and wide variety of CNG fueled buses (stoichiometric combustion, spark ignition) with 3-way cat converters.


"A majority of the buses will likely be hybrid diesel-electric coaches."
"Metro will pay $719,000 per bus for its initial order of 22 buses."
"By 2009, Metro expects to place another order for as many as 100 European-style coaches for the first of its “RapidRide” lines."
"The majority of its fleet operates on a 20 percent mix of biodiesel and ultra low sulfur diesel fuel."


Forgot to mention Metro provides bus and other transportation services in Seattle and the surrounding towns and suburbs of King County, Washington.

Now I just have to lobby them to up their fuel-mix to B50 or higher!


I can't wait until the light-rail line is finished all the way into Redmond. I'd never have to drive into Seattle ever again as long as they run it on the weekends too.


I wonder is the articulation a big facter on Seattle streets?
The Orion VII bus a series hybrid with better performance.

BAE HybriDrive® Propulsion Overview

Gerald Shields

I hate to say this, but this is a good thing for Seattle/King County. And yes, Patrick, I'll be voting for the ST2 light rail extensions also.


The thing about trolleybuses is that they could be now or in the not too distant future carbon neutral. A series hybrid is a ways off yet and still uses petroleum fuel.

Is carbon neutral "lame"?


'Is carbon neutral "lame"?'

No... its just doesn't work for seattle trolybus infrastructure. Series hybrid busses aren't a long way off. The point is the current seattle trollybus are these nasty models that have both independant electric and diesel drives rather than combining both. Its a large, unwieldy package that makes the busses much heavier and less efficient than they could be. When they drive off the trolly line (and they need to for seattle routes) they have to switch to diesel mode that hauls around the extra electric infrastructure and vice versa. In a series hybrid trollybus you would have a single drive system with auxilery power for moving off the trolly line that just happents to be quite a bit more efficient than these relics we currently use.


gee, 1200 GM hy-brid buses @$800,000 in N America saving us 1.75 million gallons @$3.00/gal of fuel each year they operate...which means we will be spending $960,000,000 to save $5,250,000/ it looks like it will only take the taxpayers 183 years to break even.


Your calculation should be based on the difference in price between existing buses and the new buses. When you do the correct calculation I think you may come up with a much
shorter payback period.



Instead of trying to break even on the whole cost of the bus, why don't you look at the cost difference between a non-hybrid bus and the new flyer hybrids. That is really the cost difference that would need to be made up by not only fuel cost savings, but also maintenance costs, parts and repair costs, etc. Not to mention trying to put a cost on the amount of greenhouse gasses that are not being put in the air, thus improving the air quality.

Looking at a cost like this with no context obviously puts it in the worst possible light, and ignores all the benefits. What would you do instead? These busses have to be replaced, as they are mandated to replace the busses after a certain number of years.


i just received a letter from the vienna city public transport company, stating that currently there are no full production articulated busses, thus they are not interested. (the bus fleet operates on Otto engines fed with LPG to minimize particulates and NOx, but exact numbers are not given).

1500+ hybrid articulated busses sound like a full production run to me... (just throw in a LPG fed Otto engine so that they can get ulra-clean).

But since LGP is rather cheap around here, there doesn't seem to be economical reason to change anything... (you could only save 30-70% according to the report on fuel costs).

Anyway´, busses around here are low-floor versions (the floor is about 20 cm elevated over street level, with no stairs anywhere), so in that respect they are right (no production hybrid articulated, low-floor busses available).



Not all trolly buses in Seattle have dual drive. Most actually do not. There were some that were used in the tunnels that had both but those are being fazed out. The mass majority of the electric buses in Seattle are electric only, and to me these are by far the preferred route, especially considering how much electricity we get from hydro.


From the Seattle PI in 2004...

Hybrid buses' fuel economy promises don't materialize
Older models have gotten better mpg


Yes, I remember that article. Some bright bunny had decided to test the busses on highway routes. No small wonder there weren't any fuel savings. That's the danger of news paper headlines.


Too bad over the last several years I have not read anything in the Seattle papers by any 'bright bunny' mentioning the hy-brid buses getting the promised far better mpg than the far less costly ($200,000+ less)and older diesel buses they replaced.
I see nothing wrong in replacing the older diesel buses with the newer hy-brids as needed, but doing so on the scale King County did (over $1/2 billion)cannot be economically justified.


Two words: bus tunnel. A primary reason for the adoption of these buses was their considerably lower emissions profile, thus the ability to run in Seattle's rather unique downtown bus tunnel without using the unrealiable diesel/trolley Breda buses. Many of the hybrids were initally introduced on long distance commuter routes where the fuel consumption improvements were marginal except for the relatively small downtown portion.

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