Part-diesel, part-electric buses now arriving


The Mirror

Metro Transit is bringing hybrid buses –– part diesel-powered, part electric –– to Federal Way and other areas of King County.

The 235 hybrids are replacements for aging buses. The first 24 of the new vehicles began running in south King County June 5, and the rest will be on the road by the end of the year, officials said.

Hybrid buses are powered by ultra-low sulfur diesel and electricity. The electrical power is generated within the vehicles and stored in batteries on the roofs.

Each of the articulated buses is 60 feet long, a little over eight feet wide and weighs 44,000 pounds when empty. They’re air-conditioned, have enough seats for 58 passengers and can carry as many as 76 if some riders stand.

The pricetag is $645,000 per bus, about $200,000 more than a standard diesel bus. But officials said the new rigs make the air cleaner and are cost-effective. The projected annual savings in fuel and maintenance costs is approximately $3.5 million, which will be reinvested in expanded service for riders, according to Metro.

Federal funding helped pay for the new buses. King County Executive Ron Sims thanked U.S. Sen. Patty Murray for her help securing the money.

“We needed a large bus that was clean, efficient and met some unique operating needs,” said Sims. “As we explored options, we decided that hybrid technology had the best potential to meet our clean-air and operating requirements.”

Just as the buses are a hybrid of fuel sources, they also combine the technology of several manufacturers that helped build them. Assembly was by New Flyer of America; the hybrid drive was built by Allison Transmission, a division of General Motors; the engine was built by Caterpillar; the seats are by American Seating, the passenger ventilation system by Thermo King and the axles by MAN.

Route 194, which links Federal Way with SeaTac and Seattle, is among the south King County lines with hybrid buses. The others include Route 150 (Kent-Auburn-Seattle).

The county’s east side is scheduled to have hybrids in late summer, followed by Seattle and the north end in the fall. Eventually, 213 of them will be about 16 percent of Metro’s fleet. The other 22 hybrids will be used by Sound Transit.

The 235 all-diesel buses that are being phased out by hybrids were manufactured in 1990-91. Buses built since 1995 have no visible exhaust, according to Metro, which is retrofitting 369 buses circa 1999-2000 with exhaust filters designed to reduce diesel particulate reaching the air. The same devices will be on 100 new diesel buses that are on order by Metro, officials said.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565,

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