Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Translink set to buy a fleet of “green” buses

with 10 comments

Jeff Nagel, Richmond Review, 31 January 2008

The Translink Press Release also has a copy of the Novabus spec sheet too.

Translink is going to buy 141 Nova hybrids for $81.5 m 32 are expansion buses, 109 are replacements and they will be allocated to Vancouver and Burnaby, displacing some older diesels to Surrey. This is because they work best in stop and go traffic: braking regenerates power which is stored in the battery. At a price of $580,000 per bus they are about $100,000 more than a straight diesel but cheaper than a roughly $1m trolleybus. Hybrids should be cheaper to operate than diesels as they use less fuel. The choice of hybrids came after extensive testing of other buses – so no more cng or hythane – good!

Written by Stephen Rees

January 31, 2008 at 3:26 pm

Posted in transit

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10 Responses

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  1. Good news. The hybrids are a great idea, and more buses will hopefully ease congestion.


    January 31, 2008 at 4:58 pm

  2. Metro magazine has a link:

    The GM Allison hybrid drivetrains are quite reliable thus far, according to the Translink Bus Technology Study. King County claims that they use about 30% less fuel. Here is a link to Green Car Congress article about GM Allison hybrids:

    Both New Flyer and Nova (Volvo) use these GM Allison hybrid system.


    January 31, 2008 at 6:33 pm

  3. Well done Graeme for those two useful links. Thank you.

    Nova do not build trolleybuses, so my pipedream of a hybrid with poles on will stay just that. I think they might be a bit pricey too.

    By the way – when I was with Translink we worked really hard to get some federal funding for our Urban Transportation Showcase program. We made sure we covered all the bases and spent rather more than the feds gave us to the write the proposal. Meanwhile, Gatineau spent nothing and just said “buy us some hybrids”. So that is what happened. the two biggest awards for the UTSP were to Vancouver BC for a lot of work and to Gatineau Quebec for almost no effort at all. And how much federal funding is there for this purchase. Yup, you got that right. 0.

    Stephen Rees

    January 31, 2008 at 6:46 pm

  4. Actually, Stephen, some of the dollars are coming out of the federal gas tax revenue sharing program. I’m too far away from my sheet on the program to give you exact amounts…but there are federal dollars there.

    Ken Hardie

    January 31, 2008 at 7:14 pm

  5. Hey Ken, that is good news! None of the links – or the Nagel piece – mentioned that. Can you send me a link to this program when you get to the office?

    I would also be interested to know how much the feds will be paying, and also how the $100k premium stacks up against the fuel bills. Not that I would quibble. I happen to think that in times of rising gas prices and global warming, hybrids do make the best sense, and I am very pleased that the CMBC trials seem to have come out at the same point as my gut instinct.

    You gonna run these babies on B10 too?

    Stephen Rees

    January 31, 2008 at 7:32 pm

  6. Do all 109 buses need replacing?

    Hmm, I wonder if more buses for Surrey means more 395’s… Any timeline details on when these are coming?

    Erika Rathje

    January 31, 2008 at 9:24 pm

  7. Stephen:

    These are very interesting figures, and a bit shocking too. I wonder how many people know that an electric trolley costs a million? I certainly didn’t. When you hear about performance problems with the trolleys, and then add in the price tag, you do begin to wonder if the extra price is worth the fuel savings.

    Translink and it’s predecessor BC Transit has always had problems with their purchasing. I recall an incident were the first mini-buses were ordered without air conditioning which was standard. But CO started getting inside the buses with the A/C ripped out, and the buses ended up being sold at a loss. Translink was so determined not to “waste money” on passenger comfort that they ended up with a non-functional product and a financial loss.

    Budd Campbell

    February 1, 2008 at 8:41 am

  8. So, you figure we can ALL buy hybride buses at $500- 750,000. per and you think fleets will grow with these costs!?!
    Hybrids are disgiused polluting vehicles using coal electricity and dumping toxic batteries into city enviornments- some solution you have there!
    Hythane can grow a cleaner fleet at a fraction of the cost while introducing hydrogen cost-effectively to help build the fueling infrastructure on the back of CNG.
    Check out for real clean solutions now.


    February 3, 2008 at 12:34 pm

  9. David – you very nearly got deleted as a spammer – which would have blocked you for good.

    Where on earth did you get the idea that hybrids use “coal electricity”? Total nonsense.

    The electricity used to drive a hybrid bus is generated on board. Some of it comes from a small internal combustion engine – usually diesel. And some comes from energy captured by deceleration instead of wasted as heat during braking. Coal never, ever enters the picture – unless some idiot decided to run the diesel on powdered coal which I think is technically feasible, but obviously undesirable.

    CNG raises the cost of bus operations. The gas has to be compressed (which also uses energy) and stored. The bus has to be adapted – and the conversions have been expensive and of dubious reliability. The Translink CNG fleet was parked for some years due to high costs. Adding hydrogen just makes a bad system worse. Hydrogen has to come from somewhere, and the only advantage would be if you had your compressor for bus fuel adjacent to a plant venting hydrogen as a waste product.

    Hythane is not at all “a fraction of the cost” – and is very dependent on the method of producing the hydrogen – which is not in and of itself a source of energy.

    Diesel is still the cheapest way to operate a bus. And per passenger km carried, much better environmentally than single occupant vehicles. Its environmental performance is improved marginally by various means – use of biofuel, use of hybrid transmission instead of a gear box, use of particulate traps and so on. All add to the cost of initial acquisition but biofuel from waste and a hybrid transmission will cut energy costs. In general, the rate of return on these approaches is less than spending the same amount of money buying conventional buses off the shelf, and increasing the size of the bus fleet.

    As a transportation economist and regional planner, I would advocate spending any additional funds on improving service first, as way of increasing transit use and getting people out of their cars. I think hybrids, hythane, hydrogen and all the rest are distractions. They play to the gallery who say that big diesel buses are dirty. They aren’t. And we need lots and lots of them to make a difference in a region which only has a 12% transit mode share at best.

    If you come back here again you had better have some understanding of the issues first – and some very basic technical understanding of what you are writing about.

    Stephen Rees

    February 3, 2008 at 1:04 pm

  10. Stephen – I am about a year late on this comment. The business case for CNG buses today is much better than the late ’90s version that GVTA first used. Not only is our natural gas transit engine the only 2010 compliant engine available today, the WTW GHG benefits in Transit are in the order of 20% better than diesel. A hybrid diesel is not certified 2010 and the GHG benefits are based on fuel economy savings. With a CNG bus costing over $150,000 less than a hybrid with same budget that means more buses, lower emissions and lower GHG’s. And the latest version of CNG buses operating cost per mile is the same as diesel.

    Jeff Campbell

    March 9, 2009 at 2:34 pm

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