It looks like Calgary Transit is toying with the idea of adding a hybrid bus to its fleet. The idea, while it would cut emissions and reduce fuel costs, has been tossed around a few times before though, so I’m not getting my hopes up.

Calgary Transit spokesman Ron Collins recently said a contract has been signed with Nova Bus, a North American leader in hybrid transit vehicles. He said he’s hopeful a hybrid bus could be bought this year to test against our climate and infrastructure, but he said no commitments have been made.

Of course, we heard a similar sentiment in May 2008, when Banff put four bio-diesel electric buses into service, thus making its entire fleet hybrid. That was two years ago and Ron Collins said Calgary would likely have one hybrid by 2009, and would be closely watching the technology.

Similarly, in May 2004, the media were invited to Calgary Transit’s Spring Gardens garage to check out a hybrid bus that was being tested out.

I wonder if we’ve been sitting on the fence long enough? From what I can tell, the work has now been done for us. Others have been testing the technology and it seems like we’re well positioned to take advantage of their findings and take the plunge.

For example, in October 2008, the Toronto Transit Commission became so unhappy with its hybrid buses that transit managers tried to get out of a contract to purchase an additional 250 hybrid electric-diesel buses. It seems the lead-acid batteries only lasted about 18 months instead of the promised five years, and the fleet only gained a 10 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency.

Because of this, when Ottawa went to purchase 202 hybrid buses that year, the transit authority decided to go with lithium-ion batteries instead. So noted — lead-acid batteries not good.

Edmonton Transit has done some testing on the subject, too, with an eight-month evaluation of hybrid buses in 2008 showing buses could garner fuel savings of up to 20 per cent and are most efficient on routes with many stops. The pilot was a success, concluding with a recommendation to the city to buy 47 hybrid buses.

Banff has been quite satisfied with its purchases as well.

Here’s hoping Calgary Transit will soon jump aboard the hybrid bus bandwagon as other Canadian cities with similar climates have already successfully done.

– Adrienne Beattie is a Calgary-born writer who has covered urban issues since 2001 and has an English degree from the University of Calgary.

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