Mayor Richard M. Daley joined Chicago Transit Authority officials today at the Control Center, 120 North Racine, to unveil the first of 20 new diesel-electric hybrid buses.
"Hybrid buses are a good example of what I've been saying for some time: there really is no downside when it comes to protecting the environment," said Mayor Daley. "It improves public health; it beautifies the city; it saves money; and it enhances the quality of life."
The New Flyer hybrid bus is powered by both a diesel engine and electric motor for improved fuel efficiency; and up to a 90 percent reduction in emissions compared to a diesel powered bus.
The 40-foot, low floor hybrid has many of the same amenities included in CTA's existing fleet like air conditioning, security cameras, bike racks and an automated announcement system and wheelchair ramps.
The hybrid also features customer amenities such as strap hangers for standing customers, a rear door easy-touch feature for ease in exiting, and a new seat design that is expected to provide increased comfort.
"We will be evaluating the performance of these hybrid buses in Chicago's extreme weather conditions and compare the two types of drive systems to determine if hybrid buses are suitable as future additions to CTA's fleet," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. "Other new buses in our fleet are equipped with low-emission engines that produce 60 percent fewer emissions than the buses they are replacing, so if the hybrids perform well, we have the potential for emission levels to fall even further."
The 20 hybrid buses are part of CTA's larger investment of 650 low-emission buses that are replacing aging buses in CTA's fleet. The buses are manufactured by New Flyer in St. Cloud, Minnesota. The average cost of a hybrid bus is $530,000, compared to $341,000 for a standard diesel bus.
The CTA will be testing two different hybrid drive systems.
The first 10 hybrid buses to arrive will be equipped with a parallel drive system, which is similar to a hybrid system found in a car. An on-board computer blends the diesel engine power and the electric motor power from the battery unit for optimum efficiency. When the vehicle leaves a stop, it will operate initially on electric power and as its speed increases, it will operate on a combination of electric power and diesel engine power until it reaches an optimum speed where it will operate entirely on the diesel engine.
The second 10 to arrive will be equipped with a series drive system, which is a more traditional generator-driven traction motor propulsion system. In this system, the diesel engine runs a generator. The generator provides electric power to the traction motors which, in turn, power the bus. A computer manages power to the traction motors and battery. At certain times during operation, the bus runs on generator power or battery power.
Both types of hybrids use regenerative braking. As the bus slows down, the electric motors charge the on-board batteries.
"CTA continually seeks out opportunities to incorporate environmentally-friendly technologies and initiatives into our operations," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown. "Our efforts - from spearheading the use of ultra low sulfur diesel fuel to installing recycled railroad ties - are important to protecting the environment."
Emission levels from CTA buses in 2005 was 22 percent of 564 tons less than the annual emission level in 1997, even as ridership has grown by 12 percent over the same period. By converting to ultra low sulfur diesel fuel in 2003, the CTA is well ahead of schedule in implementing the 2007 Federal Emission requirements for reduced particulate matter and carbon monoxide.
Other CTA environmental initiatives include:
Non-Revenue Hybrid Electric Vehicles
In 2004, CTA purchased four hybrid-electric vehicles to include in its fleet of non-revenue vehicles. The Ford Escape hybrid-electric vehicles replaced older CTA non-revenue vehicles used by field personnel to monitor bus route performance, transport materials and travel to maintenance facilities.
Compressed Natural Gas non-revenue vehicles
CTA has 24 non-revenue vans which use compressed natural gas. As advances continue in hybrid and clean diesel technology, along with other environmentally friendly initiatives, the CTA will continue to monitor their cost efficiency, performance and environmental benefits.
Fuel Cell Bus Demonstration
The CTA was the first agency to test hydrogen fuel cell buses in revenue service. A pilot was conducted from September 1997 to March 2000 and helped to assist in the development of the technology. The experiment was a partnership between the CTA and Ballard Power Systems, a manufacturer of fuel cells. CTA helped with the development by gathering data for use in the design and development of commercial heavy-duty fuel cell engines and Ballard fuel cells.
Biodiesel Fuel Demonstration
The CTA was part of a 1994 demonstration to test the use of bio-diesel fuel in two CTA buses. The CTA test lasted for three years. CTA worked in conjunction with the State of Illinois and the Illinois Soybean Association to test the viability of bio-diesel fuel.
Composite Recycled Plastic Railroad Ties
CTA is replacing existing wooden rail ties with recycled plastic rail ties on much of its system to improve performance and lessen the environmental impact. The plastic ties have a corrugated surface that better adheres to the gravel track bed and provides better stability. Plastic ties last twice as long as wood ties, 50 years compared to 25, and better resist decay, insects, water absorption and are free of chemical preservatives. To date, CTA has replaced 42,000 of its 650,000 wooden rail ties with plastic ties.
Stationary Power Supply Study
CTA is currently evaluating which operations can use an alternative power supply as a back up or to offset peak periods. Alternative power being tested includes turbine, wind and photovoltaic (solar panels).
Designed in compliance with Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards for environmentally-friendly features such as a green roof (garden) and a recycling/waste disposal program.
CTA is working with the Chicago Department of Energy to retrofit lighting in shops and garages with energy efficient lighting and ballasts.
The competitively bid contract for the New Flyer buses, which included the hybrids, was approved by the Chicago Transit Board in November 2005 and is funded with federal formula funds from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Illinois FIRST bonds from the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA).
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