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Posted on Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 4:14 p.m.

3 things you need to know about hybrid buses coming to U-M's campus

By Kellie Woodhouse

By summertime, seven of 42 buses at the University of Michigan will be hybrids, according to an announcement made Tuesday by U-M President Mary Sue Coleman.


Seven of 42 buses at the University of Michigan will be hybrids by summertime. file photo

So, what does that change mean?

1) Better mileage.

The hybrid buses will get about five miles per gallon of diesel fuel, a 30 percent improvement over the conventional buses that now serve campus.

2) Lower emissions.

The new 40-foot hybrid-electric buses use a roof-mounted battery system to supplement their diesel engines, allowing for reduced emissions.

3) Stop and go traffic won’t waste fuel.

When a hybrid bus’ brakes are applied, a generator converts the energy released from deceleration into electrical energy, which is stored in a battery and used when the bus accelerates.

The university says its long-term goal is for all campus buses to be hybrids.

Hybrid buses have already been rolling around Ann Arbor since 2007. In their first two years, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority's fleet of 20 hybrid buses conserved 100,000 gallons in fuel, for a monetary savings of $270,000.

Five years into its program, AATA has a total of 41 hybrid buses.

A spokeswoman for U-M said she did not know the exact cost of the hybrid buses the university is looking to purchase.

According to a 2009 report by Automobile Magazine, a new 40-foot hybrid bus costs $546,000, which is $245,000 more than a comparable conventional bus.

In addition to the new buses, the university purchased an additional 30 hybrid sedans. Those sedans are available to U-M staff and students for university-related travel. They were partially subsidized by the federal government.

U-M operates one of the largest alternative energy vehicle fleets among universities in the United States, with 545 vehicles running on E-85 fuel, 96 vehicles using bio-diesel, 29 hybrid sedans and 15 all-electric vehicles. Renewable energy sources comprise 16 percent of the total transportation at U-M, according to a news release.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 6:14 p.m.

I see a lot of conversation surrounding the economic side of AATAs decision to purchase these vehicles. Who is taking into account the cost of spewing greehouse gases into the atmosphere aggravating climate change? What about the cost of health care for asthmatics who are forced to breathe diesel emissions? How about the fact that maybe they bought this fleet to put Ann Arbor's name on the map of sustainability? How were those numbers figured into your calculation?


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 1:22 p.m.

Belboz, I don't trust your math. First, presumably A2 purchased buses in volume at a lower price than that quoted by some magazine. Second, the $270K saved in first 2 years wasn't from 20 buses rolling for 2 years. 2 years earlier was when they started buying the buses. It would be helpful to see a better analysis of this., a good topic for one of your reporters, if you have any reporters. I saw such an analysis from the city in ~2007 which said that if fuel costs more than ~$4 per gallon, the buses save money. But if the buses cost at bit extra to cut down our CO2 emission, I'm still all for it. Yes, belboz, this is "so Ann Arbor". Because we care about the harm we do to the environment, which is a major threat to the environment that our children and grandchildren will inherit. Because WE CARE.


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 4:41 p.m.

Don't trust my math? "In their first two years, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority's fleet of 20 hybrid buses conserved 100,000 gallons in fuel, for a monetary savings of $270,000." $135,000 per year saved over 20 buses. $135,000 / 20 is $6,750 per year in savings. I already said that I missed that $135,000 is over 2 years, not one. So, yes, my math was a bit off. 20 hybrid buses, costing $250k more than the average bus, is $5million extra cost. To save $135k per year. That itself is bad for the environment. What about the factory making all of the extra $5 million worth of parts. The people driving back and forth. $5 million isn't just a cash bonus. It pays for manufacturing, fuel, work, effort. There is a big environmental footprint associated with it. But, ignoring the financials while patting yourself on the back that you are saving the Ann Arbor environment, while ignoring the greater impact, is what is so Ann Arbor. I appreciate saving energy, but this AATA effort is hugely wasteful and bad when measured on the effect it has on the global environment. MPG is not the only measure.


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 12:14 p.m.

We already know those 3 things about hybrids. Got anything else that would be new?


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 12:14 p.m.

I suspect without gov't incentives the math Is worse... Many green technologies appear to be bad financial decisions even with gov't incentives. Sometimes society has to do things that are good (use less fuel, pollute less) that may cost more. We looked into solar and wind energy for our home. Awful financially. Hybrid car, also not good. But with cash for clusters, Ford Friends and Family, and hybrid tax deduction, it made sense over 5 years.

Dave Sullivan

Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 4:51 a.m.

Why won't U-M buy some diesel cars? Like Jetta TDI? Better than hybrids....


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 3:15 a.m.

Hybrid buses get about 5 mpg? And that's a 30% increase over conventional? Can someone confirm this is true? That's.... horrible. I'm all for public transportation, but this is a head-scratcher.


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 5:25 a.m.

Its a bus, it weighs 37,000lbs empty.


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 1:07 a.m.

So I still do not get it. AATA spends 5 million up front to save well over 5 million over the life of the buses and they will use 500,000 less gallons of fuel( by the way I'm using your math). Your right who would want to save money or fuel or reduce emissions. Seriously how is this not obviously a great idea.


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 12:20 p.m.

Sorry, my spelling!! In my ranting; **for every 3 buses AATA purchases the additional money spent could purchase 1 additional bus. Based on cost difference between the standard front end and the BRT series front end that AATA chose for the front end of the buses.


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 12:13 p.m.

A2LIFER, The cost per bus that AATA spends is over $700K per bus. The enhanced front end that you see costs an additional 200K per bus. U-M will spend over $500K per same bus; the big difference is that they will look exactly as the buses presently operated by U-M. The front end has absolutely no contribution to the efficiency of the operation, just AATA spending extra tax payer money to the tune of $200K per bus. Sad thing about this when you do some more math, for every 3 buses that AATA purchases; the additional money spent per bus could by 1 additional buse. At the very least that additional money could have been used for Transit Operations.


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 3:08 a.m.

Per their 2009 audit, they spent $2.5 million for 4 hybrid buses in 2009. A little over $600k per bus. I only hope they are averaging down. page 4 <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 1:58 a.m.

AATA spent less than 500,000 per bus, not to mention diesel fuel will probably go up in price just a little bit over the 12 to 15 year life of those buses. AATA has 15 year old buses on the road right now.


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 1:29 a.m.

How long will the buses last? Say 20 years. That is $2.7 million in savings. But, spending $5 million. 20 years is a long shot. That is how it is not obviously a great idea.


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 12:47 a.m.

Actually, it is worse than I put down. The $13.5k savings per bus is over 2 YEARS! So, they spend $5 million dollars to save $135k per year? Give me a BREAK!


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 2:05 a.m.

They didn't spend 5 million extra on those buses. It was probably more like 4.2 million( it was a few years ago) and that 135K a year was based on diesel prices at 2.70 a gallon. Have you seen gas prices today they are saving nearly 200K this year and when prices hit 4.50 or 5.00 in the next five years they will be saving close to a half million a year.


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 1:43 a.m.

Whoops. I voted for your reply on accident. Take one away for your true score. What is there to get from my math? They spend $5 million to save $135k per year. It will take almost 30 years to make that savings up. Not even close to a sound decision.


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 1:09 a.m.

Yes the hybrids end up being cheaper and cleaner over the life of the bus! What don't you get, your math spelled it all out in black and white.


Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 10:52 p.m.

No wonder AATA budget is so incredibly out of whack. One bus, over 2 years, conserves $13.5k? ($270 savings / 20 busses...) AATA spent $245,000 more per bus, or almost $5 million dollars, to save $270,000 per year.... Well, I'm saying that is NOT a good trade-off. It would take well over 10 years to earn the money back. Usually, even 5 years is iffy because these studies are never perfect and don't anticipate all other costs... Worse, they actually have 41 such buses, or over $22.5 million in capital, compared to $12.3 million if they bought the regular kind. $10 million gone, out the window. That is such an Ann Arbor thing to do. Maybe if riders contributed more than 10% of the cost of each ride - more like 100% - I'd not complain. But, come on - this is so incredibly wasteful. Great, they save some fuel. But, what about all the fuel burnt up to make the parts and build the $245k per bus. Who is measuring that energy footprint? The pollutants from those factories? The workers driving back and forth? It isn't all about MPG. Oh, but hey, this is Ann Arbor. I forgot.


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 5:16 a.m.

Gilig is a US company, and there built in California


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 3:15 a.m.

I didn't see 2010 numbers. I'll have to check. It isn't the easiest thing to figure out, and Cash flow may not be the perfect measure. But, even if it is closer to 20%, I'd still be whining. I just don't get the spending. I only hope they are made in the U.S. from U.S. parts (engines, chassis, etc...) and not a Daimler special.


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 2:24 a.m.

your 3.1 million figure was cash flow, plus i am using 2010 numbers i am sorry about that.


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 2:07 a.m.

You forgot 2.4 million from university riders and 1.2 million from 3 purchase of service agreements.


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 1:41 a.m.

The operating expenses were $27.6 million per the 2009 audited report. AATA received $3.1 million from Transit Operations. So, excuse my generalization that riders only cover 10% of the cost to run AATA. It is 11%. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 12:49 a.m.

Over 20% of the budget is from fares or purchase of service agreements. Second AATA has to keep those buses for at least 12 years so they will more than make up the extra cost.


Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 11:19 p.m.

Don't mean to stir the pot, BUT AATA's particular hybrids are more expensive than the types that U-M will acquire. AATA's hybrids have the optional front end, this is known as the BRT series. Both are from Gillig, however AATA adds the more impressive front end to enhance the look.

John of Saline

Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 9:50 p.m.

It's the stops and starts that get you. It doesn't help with the student walkers and bikers waltzing into the street, oblivious to traffic. SCREEEEEEEEEEECH!