Hybrid bus on its way to Avon | VailDaily.com

Hybrid bus on its way to Avon

Brooke Bates

AVON ” Avon’s new hybrid bus runs as quietly as “an overgrown golf cart,” said Dan Higgins, Avon’s fleet manager.

“You can sit across the aisle from someone and have a conversation at normal volume,” which was never a possibility with the old buses, said Higgins.

Avon is the first to purchase Optima Bus Corp.’s hybrid transit bus, which offers other environmental advantages such as cutting diesel emissions in half. That means only half as much fuel is needed to run it, and gas mileage is doubled.

Before purchasing this model, Avon also considered a hybrid bus that runs on batteries, said Bob Reed, director of public works and transportation. But the batteries have to be replaced every six or seven years at a cost of $20,000.

“Ultra-capacitors,” which run the model that Avon will receive in the fall, last up to 10 years, cost only $7,000 and, unlike batteries, capacitors can be entirely rebuilt, so waste is reduced.

The hybrid cost $145,000 more than a regular diesel bus, and maintenance bills will run the same, Higgins said. Since the bus runs on a combination diesel-electric engine, the costs of a regular diesel engine will still apply.

“Fuel savings won’t recoup the extra cost of the bus, but it’s cleaner and quieter and gets double mileage,” Higgins said. “The whole idea behind buying hybrid vehicles is for the environment,”

The hybrid model that Avon test-drove in November has been adjusted for inclines. The bus can now handle the occasional trip up Beaver Creek, but it will spend most of its time running on the valley floor.

“The hybrid is most efficient for stop-and-go city driving, so it’s a perfect fit for the town shuttle,” Higgins said. The hybrid bus will replace an older bus and run from Wal-Mart to west Avon.

Avon also purchased a hybrid Ford Escape SUV for the Community Development Department’s building inspectors to use. The price, $26,000, was only a couple thousand more than a standard SUV. And at 23 miles per gallon, the SUV is averaging almost 10 mpg more than the department’s old vehicle, Higgins said. With a warranty of 100,000 miles, the SUV will last at least seven years.

Avon’s hybrid bus is currently being completed and tested in Altoona, Pa. All transit buses must pass ‘the Altoona test’ ” complete with potholes ” before being delivered. Higgins expects the bus sometime this fall.

“Once government agencies start buying more hybrids and people see how they work, I think more people will get into hybrids,” Higgins said. “Boy, I know I’d take one.”

Brooke Bates can be reached at vdeditintern@vaildaily.com

Vail, Colorado

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