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BC Transit Decides to Forego Hybrids in Favor of New Diesels For Now

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.




The best use for present Hybrid drivetrains is in vehicles that make numerous and frequent stops, like dump trucks, or delivery vehicles, or vehicles stuck in constant stop-and-go traffic.

For most everyone else, clean diesels are the cheapest, most efficient way to go.

Of course, the best compromise available until all-electric vehicles (read batteries) become economically feasible would be a clean-diesel Hybrid (using micro super caps vice heavy batteries). But that is also presently cost prohibitive.

Until technology makes fuel efficient transportation ubiquitous- ride a bicycle or use mass transit.

Stan Peterson

This is a hardheaded business decision, but the diesels are not clean, yet.

I would think that both the hybrid and the diesel will have to be upgraded with T2B5 standards or better.

I am unaware of the Canadian automotive pollution standards. Could a knowledgeable Canadian please enighten me. Canada sometimes attempts to conform with the US standards for compatibility reasons but at other times, attempts to show its independence.

The cost question is one issue, the pollution output is another. Presumeably the augmented electric hybrid drive allows a smaller diesel while still providing suitable acceleration, and therfore a lower total amount of pollution. Is this in fact the case?

Greg woulf

I think the article said that the pollution reduction by going hybrid wasn't very much around 8% at best.

I'm Green as a leaf, but the money could be better spent than a very marginal reduction in bus emissions.

$300,000 worth of solar panels would offset more pollution by a fair margin.

For additional info on various transport vehicles efficiency, check this site:


Diesel city buses are only maginally more fficient than the Prius II.

Electric rail passenger units are by far the most efficient.

Electric trolley buses are 2 1/2 times more efficient thant diesel buses. (without the associated pollution).

It seems that high speed electric intercity trains + inner-city electric trolleys is (by far) the best combination.


That 8% reduction was in fuel consumption. Pollution output, especially non-CO2 forms of pollution -- is not a linear function of fuel consumption. It has a lot more to do with the control technologies and operating parameters of each drivetrain. It has been my observation that diesel hybrids usually report a reduction in non-CO2 pollution (NOx, SOx, PM, etc.) that is much higher than their percentage drop in fuel consumption. At the same time, since these buses are intended for use outside the built-up Vancouver area, local air pollution is probably less intense as a background issue and therefore less important.

MJ Yan

The venerable 4-cycle engines wast about 2/3 of the enery form fuel. The best way to boost fuel efficiency rests on the engine itself.

The D-cycle engine technology, see www.yanengines.com, will replace 4-cycle and save substantial gas (at least 30%), improve vehicle performance, and with minimum investments. It can run on both Diesel and Otto cycles, on altnative fuels including H2, and on hybrid.


Long Beach California Runs its own transit system , and also has a gas utility and a large part of the city fleet runs on cng , including about half of the trash trucks and many cars / light trucks.
They have NO cng busses, and when they added busses to the fleet last year , they purchased New Flyer hybrids with GASOLINE engines. This was due to poor overall per mile cost of the G M diesel hybrid buses tested. The fact that with 5 city cng stations and its own gas company, and they chose gasoline , not cng or diesel tells me that they use hard facts and data ,. Many other transit systems do the same.


I grew up in Boston, and I remember seeing MBTA electric buses in Harvard Square routinely about 20 years ago. They had the overhead electric catenary that trolleys use, but the vehicles were buses, with rubber tires and no tracks. When I go back to visit now though, I don't see them around anymore. Wonder why they got rid of them. Perhaps the cost of maintaining the wires was more than the energy savings? Or the energy savings wasn't what it was cracked up to be? It *sounds* like such a good idea-- all the green benefits of trolleys without having to maintain tracks or a separate right-of-way. The buses even had enough flexibility that they could change lanes in traffic, although obviously they couldn't veer off too far from their wires.


Canada has adopted California standards.



Actually Vancouver still has those electric trolleys running all over the city. As the province gets most of its energy from hydro (86% i think) they're pretty much the best option. But that's just for the dwntwn and the older parts of the city. Newer parts of Vancouver are all suburban sprawl so it's not especially efficient, or sightly, to put up all these transmission lines. It was a huge waste for the province to put all that money into the hydrogen highway as we have more than enough clean energy for EVs



The trackless trolley network in Boston is pretty much the same as it was twenty years ago. They run from North Cambridge through Harvard Square, out to Watertown and the Huron Village neighborhood near Fresh Pond. They still have the same bus yard up Massachusetts Avenue, near the old train tracks that used to run through Davis Square towards the Alewife Brook Parkway (those tracks have been torn out and the right of way turned into a bike trail -- it's called the Linear Park now).

About twenty years ago Cambridge and the MBTA built an underground busway through Harvard Square, through which all the trackless trolleys now run when transiting the area. That why you might not have seen them when you were in there -- if you stuck only to the Harvard Square area and did not venture further, the trackless trolleys were out of sight but still running.


I should also point out that the MBTA took delivery of a fleet of modern replacement trackless trolleys within the past five years, so they seem relatively intent on continuing service for the foreseeable future.



Some of the hydrogen in Vancouver's Hydrogen Highway comes from industrial waste gas. One of the byproducts of chlorine production in pulp and paper mills is hydrogen gas, which is currently vented to atmosphere.

This is an excellent use of a resource that would be wasted, otherwise! Vancouver should be proud of its leadership!

As well, your EVs in Vancouver are not as clean as you think - BCHydro buys cheap coal power from Alberta to pump water uphill at night, and during periods of high demand. 38.5% of BC's electricity came from "short term contracts" with thermal generation.

Only 48% of BC electricity is from hydro, 52% from coal and gas.

It's burried deep in BC Hydro's Annual Report - see page 121.



BC Transit is continuing its pursuit of developing and deploying a fleet of hydrogen fuel-cell buses.
WTF are they smoke in Vancouver? Hybrid not good enough, but H2 Fool-cells are better!!! Sounds like BC government is run by Bob & Doug McKenzie.
Stan Peterson

dough H,

Thanks for the info.

From that I would infer that both the new Flyer diesels and the hybrid diesels both come equipped with "clean diesels " conforming to T2B5 and have catalytic converters, SCR urea injection, and particularate filters,since this is the current California standard.

Since I have heard of no mass transit having these features I wonder if the California standards are to be implemented in some future year.

T2B5 is for automotive light duty. Trucks and buses have a different set of standards. The Canadian standards are copied from USA. All of these buses, whether hybrid or not, would have had to meet the new standards.

Brian P

Oops, sorry, that last anonymous post was me.

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