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Reason Foundation

Hybrid hype strikes again

Ted Balaker
December 12, 2004, 12:16pm

Don't get me wrong, I think they're cool, but sometimes hybrid fever runs ahead of reality. A while back Consumer Reports noted that hybrids actual milege is about 25% lower than the advertised mileage. And now a similar story with hybrid transit busses: Expensive new hybrid diesel-electric buses that were portrayed by King County Metro as "green" heroes that would use up to 40 percent less fuel than existing buses have fallen far short of that promise. In fact, at times, the New Flyer hybrid articulated buses have gotten worse mileage than the often-maligned 1989 dual-mode Breda buses they are replacing. Yet the hybrid buses cost $200,000 more each than a conventional articulated diesel bus. The disappointing results are a far cry from the rosy predictions made by officials. In May of this year, when Metro held a public event to herald the arrival of the first of the new hybrid buses, County Executive Ron Sims said they would save 750,000 gallons of fuel a year over the Bredas. Metro was the first agency in the country to buy a 60-foot articulated bus with a hybrid diesel-electric technology. It ordered 235 of them, 213 for itself for $152 million and 22 for Sound Transit. Metro now has the largest fleet of hybrid buses in the world. Still that line "world's largest fleet of hybrid busses" will look mighty good in promotional pamphlets. After all, no matter what happens in the real world, the term "hybrid" still equals eco-cred, and it's got to look good to all those groups who hand out "livability" awards.

Ted Balaker is Producer


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