Smaller cities might like hybrids
For smaller municipalities with less ridership or those who just want to stick their toes in the pool of electrification, a hybrid shuttle bus like the ones offered by XL Fleet may be the way to go.
Eric Foellmer, director of marketing for XL Fleet, said the company’s most popular model for public transportation is the Ford E350-450 Cutaway Shuttle that holds about 15-20 passengers.
“That’s our most popular for city transit — we have a variety of mid-duty passenger vans for smaller municipal applications.”
Foellmer said the hybrids will “help improve the miles per gallon by 25% and reduce emissions by 20% with no operational disruption.”
He explained because it’s a hybrid system, it’s still gas powered so there are no worries about the length of routes or expensive infrastructure.
“It’s a great stepping stone for municipalities with sustainability goals but not the funds for infrastructure. Most municipalities need substantial grants in order to buy an electric bus. They can add more hybrids for the cost of one bus.”
XL Fleet’s systems run about $24,000-$25,000 above the cost of the vehicle.
“We’re an aftermarket technology. Most buy the vehicles new and add the hybrid system but we can retrofit.” Foellmer added, “We’re eQVM certified and the maintenance schedules and (OEM) warranties are intact.”
The only difference from regular maintenance is, when the vehicle is brought in for service, technicians need to check the coolant on the hybrid system. Like the fully electrified system, the XL Fleet hybrid regenerates power when braking. He noted, “Our customers are finding it’s extending the life of their brake pads—it’s a great secondary feature.”
Foellmer said the company also works with General Motors. “We electrify what the fleets are already buying.”
He said hybrids are still the predominate seller for alternative fuel vehicles as they’re more cost effective and less impactful on infrastructure. With an increase of 25% in miles per gallon and 20% reduction in CO2 emissions that becomes pretty substantial over the lifespan of the vehicle.
“For municipalities just starting out and wanting to reach sustainability goals, this is a great way to start. This is a great way for fleets to be more flexible and sustainable,” Foellmer said.
So for those considering a move in this direction, the best thing may be to take Pumphrey’s advice. “Be sure you do your due diligence and research with an independent source and try to ascertain and get hard data on what the range will be, how the bus will perform in your conditions and how you plan to use it.”