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Avon tests hybrid bus

Nicole Frey
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyThe town of Avon test drives a hybrid bus up to Beaver Creek to determine whether it can handle steep inclines Friday on Prater Rd. The hope is to make it part of either the Beaver Creek fleet or Avon's in-town fleet.
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AVON – I think I can, I think can it was the little hybrid engine that could.Under speculation that the hybrid bus wouldn’t be able to handle the steep slope up Village Road in Beaver Creek, the Kansas bus supplied a pleasant surprise as it cruised up the hill averaging about 20 mph.”It turned out better than I hoped,” said Avon Town Manager Larry Brooks. “We need to make a statement, and we need to start somewhere. This is cool. This would be a lot of fun.”The town of Avon, discovering a surplus in its transportation budget about two weeks ago, is exploring green bus technology to add to its fleet. Pitching the idea to the Avon Town Council, councilmembers responded enthusiastically, reiterating their commitment to making Avon as eco-friendly as possible.”The environment is why we all live here,” said Councilman Brian Sipes. “It’s why people come to visit, and we need to preserve the golden goose. And it’s the right thing to do.”As Town Manager Larry Books researched the available technology, which uses both electricity and diesel fuel to power the vehicles, he discovered Optima Bus Corp’s Opus hybrid buses were designed for stop and go traffic up and down hills. Most hybrid buses operat best on flat, continuous stretches of road. As the teal, purple and orange “party bus” accelerated quickly into a roundabout, Brooks grinned.

“It’s such a foreign feeling to just go and yet it’s still quiet,” he said. “It feels strange because the engine just sits there and does nothing, and you go.”Beaver Creek’s transportation manager Chris Lubbers joined the Avon crew for the journey up the mountain.”This particular (bus) wouldn’t do it, but we could spec it so it would work,” he said. “It’s a neat idea.”While the bus would be better for the environment, reducing emissions and noise pollution, it comes with a hefty price tag – almost double the cost of a regular gas-powered bus. The hybrid bus costs about $400,000 while a regular bus costs about $250,000. “I think it’s worth it we live in such a beautiful place; we need to maintain it,” said Jane Burden, a transit specialist. “And it’s good to check the technology out, even if you don’t end up buying.”Although the hybrid bus would use about 25 percent less gas, the high price of the bus means the town will likely never make up the difference in cost. “It’s more about the lower emissions,” said Avon spokeswoman Jacquie Halburnt. “We’re just trying to do our part to save the environment, because if the government doesn’t do it, who will?”

Avon will continue discussions with Beaver Creek, which said it would be happy to jump on the hybrid bus bandwagon. Brooks said Avon will have to secure federal grant money before they can proceed with the project and recommend it to the town council for approval. “We’ll definitely stay on top of this,” Brooks said. =========================Features of the hybrid electric drive system- Lower emissions- Can reduce fuel costs by up to 50 percent



– Extended service intervals- Simplified maintenance for longer service life and reliability- Instant torque for faster acceleration- Quiet operation ========================Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14621, or nfrey@vaildaily.com. Vail, Colorado


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