GM Announces Hybrid Technology for Mass Transit

Published November 21, 2003

General Motors Corp. has announced a new, road-ready hybrid electric technology that will save the Seattle area 750,000 gallons of fuel per year and could save more than 40 million gallons a year nationwide if adopted in just nine other major metropolitan areas.

As part of the first phase in its hybrid technology rollout, GM will equip 235 new buses with clean hybrid technology that will increase fuel economy at King County Metro Transit and Sound Transit by up to 60 percent.

The annual fuel savings from the new fleet will be equal to replacing more than 8,000 internal combustion engine cars with hybrid electric vehicles, GM said. The new hybrids will produce 90 percent fewer particulates, hydrocarbon emissions, and carbon monoxide emissions, and 60 percent fewer nitrogen oxides, than the buses they are replacing.

“The parallel hybrid electric system is the most efficient hybrid architecture available in the world today,” said Tom Stephens, group vice president of GM Powertrain. “In addition to bringing the benefits of hybrid electric technology to commercial vehicles, our Allison Electric Drive System is helping establish hybrid technologies as effective, practical, and commercially viable beyond mass transit applications.”

Stephens and other senior GM officials showcased the company’s newest environmental technology while outlining the company’s plans for dissemination of its breakthrough throughout the country.

“General Motors’ hybrid strategy focuses on first applying hybrid technology to the highest fuel-consuming vehicles, such as transit buses and full-size pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles,” said Stephens. “For example, replacing the 13,000 buses operating in the nine largest transit markets in the United States with our hybrid technology would result in annual savings of more than 40 million gallons of fuel, equivalent to more than half a million small hybrid passenger vehicles.”

In addition to superior fuel economy and lower emissions, the GM technology delivers superior torque and 50 percent better acceleration than conventional diesel buses. The technology works for a broad range of commercial transit and trucking applications, including standard and articulated transit buses, suburban coaches, military vehicles, and medium- and heavy-duty trucks. The system is compatible with current vehicle architectures.

In addition to the King County fleet, Allison hybrid systems are in pilot programs in Austin, Hartford, Houston, Minneapolis, Newark, Orange County, Philadelphia, Portland, and Salt Lake City.

“The Allison Electric Drive system for mass transit applications is a crucial element of GM’s larger, pragmatic approach to hybrid technology that targets a wide array of popular models with varying degrees of complexity to give consumers a variety of choice,” said Elizabeth A. Lowery, GM vice president for environment and energy. “However, because hybrids cost several thousand dollars more than conventional vehicles, consumer-based tax credits and the availability of federal transit funds will play a crucial role in gaining market acceptance by making these technologies more affordable to car and truck buyers and to local transit authorities.”

“This purchase will continue Metro’s commitment to air quality and help change the image of the transit bus in our community,” stated King County Executive Ron Sims. “I think hybrid technology has the opportunity to do that across the country.”

James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News. His email address is [email protected].