|The Economic Impact of Hybrid Buses
Are hybrid buses economically practical in New York City?
Hybrid buses may be better for the environmental, but are they
practical, or beneficial, economically speaking? Well, this is a
complicated issue with no easy answer - it depends on many different
factors, short and long term:
1) how fuel-and-oil-efficient are the buses?
2) how much maintenance do the buses require?
3) how much do the buses cost to build? (including the need to build
and develop "recharging stations")
note: Hybrid buses are being circulated by the Manhattanville Depot
in Harlem, and the results of these buses were compared with diesel
buses running out of the same depot, and the nearby Amsterdam Depot.
Fuel Economy and Oil Consumption
Over time, hybrid buses would be a long-term benefit in cutting
gasoline costs. Currently, according to the MTA, they control 4,
373 buses (though the Department of Energy placed the number as
high as 4,489), traveling over 107 million miles using 38 million
gallons of gasoline per year. The NYCT pays $1.03 per gallon of
gasoline, and $0.64 per quart of engine oil.
Diesel buses in the Manhattanville and Amsterdam depots got an
average of 2.42 miles per gallon, while the hybrid buses got 2.65
mpg. On average, the diesel buses used about 45 cents worth of gasoline
per mile, while the hybrid buses used 39 cents. Overall, this could
work out to a savings of about 6.4 million dollars per year. Oil
consumption was expected to be slightly higher in the hybrid buses
(about between 0.72 and 0.22 quarts per thousand miles). This problem
would cost about $15,000 (by liberal estimates) to $50,000 (by conservative
estimates) more per year in costs. This is still a significantly
smaller amount of money compared to what would be saved on fuel
These numbers are also only averages. During some months, the hybrid
buses really outshone the diesel buses, improving fuel economy by
over 60%. As technology improves, hybrid buses should be able to
keep these numbers year-round.
The performance of the hybrid buses can only be judged by the 10
prototypes currently on the road in New York City. Reports indicate
that these ten buses break down more often than regular buses, and
require more maintenance, which raises costs. However, reports say
that the increase in break-downs can largely be attributed to the
fact that these are prototypes, not put together on an assembly
line, and it is usually the case that prototypes do not work as
efficiently as standard models. Also, mechanics were not familiar
with the hybrid buses (leading to more labor hours), and replacement
parts were not readily available because these are new fleets, few
At this time, the average maintenance costs, per mile, were $0.67
for the diesel buses and $1.90 for the hybrid buses. This enormous
difference in price could end up costing the city over $100 million
if the whole bus fleet were replaced with hybrids, assuming that
maintenance costs don't decrease. However, when the hybrid bus program
really takes off, and the buses are better made, the mechanics become
more knowledgeable and spare parts needed for repair become more
available, the cost of maintenance should decline significantly.
Also, the depots themselves are taking more active control over
maintenance of the hybrid buses, which was previously handled by
It is almost impossible to find the numbers/figures that represent
the actual cost of building a hybrid bus, because the manufacturer,
Orion, has not released the figures (nor has the city). We do know,
however, that the Pataki administration has invested about $300
million in the project over a four year period (2000-2004). One
hundred and twenty five new buses are on order from Orion for next
Also, along with buying the buses, the depots have to be equipped
with "recharging stations"; however, they are used sparingly
and use little electricity (low cost). The Department of Energy
report refers to these "facility conversions" as "minor".
New York City, and State, is facing a tremendous budget crisis.
The buses can perform when it comes to increasing fuel economy,
but should the maintenance costs not be brought down enough, the
buses may prove too costly. However, should the hybrid buses be
able to significantly bring down maintenance costs near, at, or
below current diesel bus costs, hybrid buses would become very economically
efficient, saving in fuel costs while saving the environment.
"Hybrid Electric Transit Buses - NYCT - Final Report"
by the Department of Energy, from the Alternative Fuels Data Center
"About New York City Transit - Buses" from the MTA's