Tempe rolling out Valley's first hybrid-electric buses this month - East Valley Tribune: Tempe

Tempe rolling out Valley's first hybrid-electric buses this month

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Posted: Friday, September 9, 2011 7:00 am | Updated: 5:30 pm, Mon Sep 12, 2011.

The first hybrid-electric buses in the Valley will hit the streets of Tempe later this month, and they should be easy spot whether you’re a passenger or driving behind one.

Unlike gasoline-powered buses that belch exhaust and roar their engines when the driver hits the gas, the hybrid buses rely on electricity when they begin to accelerate.

The engine idles when the bus travels 15 mph or less, said Jason Hartong, a Tempe transit official.

“They’ll definitely notice a much quieter and smoother ride,” Hartong said. “One of the things that will be obvious is when the driver steps on the gas peddle, the engine will not rev up.”

Tempe bought 17 buses at $984,000 each. That’s $180,000 more per bus than one that uses traditional fuels. Tempe expects to offset some of the expense because the buses use less fuel. Also, the electric engines run in reverse when the driver’s foot is off the gas. That slows the bus without having to use the brakes and should extend brake life from 75,000 miles to 250,000 miles.

“We don’t expect to fully recover the cost difference but the environmental benefits kind of have to play into the equation as well,” Hartong said.

The buses should be on Tempe streets later this month. They’ll run on Baseline and the Rural/Scottsdale road routes. The 60-foot buses will become the largest in Tempe’s fleet of 134 vehicles. They replace buses that were 30, 35 and 40 feet long.

Buses are usually replaced once they reach 12 years or 500,000 miles, but the outgoing vehicles were up to 14 years old and had up to 700,000 miles on them, Hartong said.

The hybrid buses were manufactured by New Flyer Industries in St. Cloud, Minn.

Hybrid buses have been in wide circulation for about five years, Hartong said. The electric batteries are supposed to last eight to 10 years, but Tempe expects it will replace them at seven years to avoid any failures. The batteries cost $60,000.

Tempe doesn’t have immediate plans for other hybrids. The city will need time to evaluate performance, Hartong said.

“We need at least a year so that we can go through all the seasons because we definitely see decreased fuel economy in the summer with the A/C load,” he said.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6548 or ggroff@evtrib.com

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