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Hybrid Buses and Biodiesel

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I thought this story was interesting. It comes from the Session Weekly from 2 February, 2007. Session Weekly is a non-partisan publication that covers the Minnesota House.

Metro Transit, the bus service serving much of the Twin Cities metropolitan area, is trying to make its bus exhaust fumes more environmentally friendly.

"We are the largest user of fuel in the state of Minnesota, we we take environmental issuse quite seriously," Peter Bell, Metropolitan Council chairman, told the House Transportation Finance Division Jan. 25. No action was taken.

The system now uses ultra-low sulfur fuel, instead of just low sulfur fuel; since July 2006 it has used 5 percent biodiesel in its buses; and it is testing a fuel that is 20 percent biodiesel.

Currently the system operates three hybrid buses, and Bell said the intent is to purchase 150 more by 2011.

Doing so would likely be more expensive. A 40-foot hybrid bus now has a price tag of about $500,000 but he expects the cost to decrease with improved technology. The current diesel buses cost about $315,000.

However, Bull noted that Metro Transit would use 19,682 fewer gallons of diesel fuel over the 12-year lifespan of a hybrid bus. "The cost savings of the diesel doesn't make up for the $185,000 difference," he said. "But who knows what will happen to the price of fuel."

In addition to running more quietly, Bell said hybrid buses should emit 91 percent less particulate matter, mainly soot, and 85 percent less nitrogen oxide.

Other changes to the current fleet have reduced particulate matter emissions from 85 tons per year in 1995 to a projected 12.8 tons this year and 8 tons by 2011.