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This Volvo plug-in hybrid bus cuts fuel consumption by 81% (w/ video)

A test fleet of plug-in hybrid Volvo buses in Sweden have smashed fuel economy expectations by using 81 percent less fuel than their diesel-only counterparts.

The three hybrid buses being used in the trial are fitted with a lithium-ion battery-powered electric motor and a small diesel engine. The battery is recharged at bus stops via an energy storage unit on the roof – taking 5 or 6 minutes – and gives an electric range of around 5 miles.

That’s enough for the buses to run on electric power for the majority of the route.

As well as saving huge amounts of fuel, the buses also cut total energy consumption by 60 percent, as electric motors are far more energy efficient than combustion engines. Volvo plans to offer the buses to a number of European cities by next year, and Hamburg and Luxembourg have already placed orders. Full-scale production should commence in 2015.

“Our performance results are even slightly better than we had anticipated. The plug-in hybrid consumes less than 11 litres of fuel for every 100 kilometres. That’s 81% less fuel than the equivalent diesel bus consumes,” says Johan Hellsing, project manager for the field test at Volvo Buses.

“Although there are many long, steep gradients on the routes, the plug-in hybrid buses can run on electric power for about 85% percent of the time. The diesel engine only kicks in when the bus needs some extra power,” Hellsing added. “The test drivers from GS Buss really appreciate the quiet, vibration-free ride that you get with an electric powered bus.”

There’s no word on the feasibility of installing compatible plug-in hybrid bus stops, but presuming they’re no barrier these buses could make a considerable impact on air quality in European cities and metropolises around the world. Volvo’s plug-in hybrid fleet is not, alas, quite as clean as the electric buses in South Korea that wirelessly charge on the move. They are, however, working on something similar.
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