A handful of bus manufacturers are now selling or taking orders to deliver hybrid buses during this and next years model cycle. There have been some ‘experimental’ or ‘demonstration’ hybrid buses available for a few years now, but the 2009 and 2010 model years appear to be the time when full production models become part of the mix. For a variety of reasons, the ability of the manufacturers to ramp up hybrid bus production has been hampered by competing fuel technologies, such as natural gas fuel, or limitations in the fuel/electric/battery technology to achieve better mileage characteristics. When you add in the new technology increase in base cost to bring such a vehicle to market, the hybrid bus has previously been just beyond the normal budget for municipalities and bus fleet operators. New pricing and lifetime operating expenses are now much more economically viable. When future supply of petroleum resources indicate an ever upward spiral in fuel costs, it is highly likely that the hybrid bus will gain a significant share of future bus sales.
A good example of a bus manufacturer that appears to have all the parameters right to succeed in the hybrid bus marketplace is Fisher Coachworks. Fisher is selling their GTB-40 model now. What’s newsworthy is both their lowered cost of production making the hybrid bus acquisition cost competitive and their 3 times the average 10mpg vs. 3mpg standard diesel fuel mileage figure. Or, consider Volvo, a name brand most bus industry people know. Volvo has a whole division that is now producing buses, as well as, trucks and construction equipment that run on hybrid technology. For the next few years, expect only a handful of percentage points for the adoption of hybrid bus technology, but it is a start.