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Planet Ark World Environment News Daimler Sees Fast US Takeup of Diesel-Hybrid Buses

Date: 02-Jun-06
Country: US
Author: Duncan Martell

Metropolitan transit agencies increasingly consider alternatives when replacing aging conventional diesel buses.

"They're all saying 'With our new bus buys, we're looking at hybrids'," said Peter Scully, chief commercial officer for DaimlerChrysler Commercial Buses.

Conventional diesel buses get about 3 miles (5 km) to the gallon of fuel, compared with 4 or slightly more for diesel-electric hybrid buses, which have generators that produce electricity as they decelerate.

The technology comes at a cost. DaimlerChrysler's diesel-electric Orion VII buses cost about US$500,000 each, depending on how they're configured for customers, about 40 percent more than conventional diesel buses.

"It's perfect for the urban areas, for stop and go," said Andreas Renschler, head of DaimlerChrysler Truck Group and Buses, the world's biggest maker of commercial trucks, after a news conference to mark the delivery of the first of 56 Orion VIIs ordered by the City and County of San Francisco.

US transit agencies consistently buy about 5,000 buses per year. New York has already opted to buy hybrids, while Atlanta, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. are testing them.

DaimlerChrysler is betting big on diesel; it doesn't plan to have a hybrid passenger vehicle on the market until 2008, roughly a decade behind Toyota Motor Corp.

Diesel engines perform more efficiently than gasoline engines in part because the fuel mix is more tightly compressed before combustion. But the heavy carbon content of diesel remains a concern for environmentalists.

Earlier on Thursday, the Chrysler Group said it would offer a diesel version of its Jeep Grand Cherokee early next year, the first full-size diesel SUV for sale in the United States.

DaimlerChrysler's first application of its Blutec diesel technology, which burns diesel fuel cleaner than regular diesel engines, will be in the Mercedes E320 rolling out this fall.

"We're improving the conventional diesel," Renschler said. "There isn't one technology solution for everything."

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