Volvo's hybrid buses start carrying passengers

Hybrid buses are now carrying passengers in Gothenburg, and hybrid double-deckers will be doing the same in London before long, according to bus-maker Volvo.

The hybrid buses are being trialled by local transit company Göteborgs Spårvägar Buss. "We strive continuously to reduce the negative environmental impact of bus traffic," said its operations manager, Pierre Modini. "Naturally, testing new environmental technology in our buses is important to us."

The buses use a parallel diesel-electric transmission, this shuts off the diesel to be clean and silent at bus stops, and then restarts it once the bus reaches a speed of 15-20 km/h (around 10mph). They use regenerative braking and store energy in a battery mounted on the roof.

Volvo said the Gothenburg trials are the first time that its hybrid buses have been used in commercial service. It said that its hybrid technology, which is also intended for trucks and construction equipment, so as to achieve economies of scale, contributes to a quieter and cleaner city environment. Fuel consumption, and therefore CO2 emission, can be reduced by up to 30 percent, and the emission of nitrous oxides and particles declines by 40-50 percent compared with a conventional diesel bus, the company claimed.

"We reduce energy consumption per passenger by 50-75 percent, compared with using an automobile,” said Edward Jobson, environmental director at Volvo Buses. "With such major environmental gains and such large savings in fuel costs, we are convinced that hybrid buses will become extremely attractive and a difficult-to-beat alternative for personal transportation within a few years."

Volvo said it has already received orders for hybrid buses, including from customers in Luxemburg and Switzerland. It expects to start series production at the beginning of 2010.

The company said that the Gothenburg field tests are intended for making the final fine adjustments, and will be followed by field tests in London of its first six hybrid double-decker buses.

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