Friday, August 28, 2009

Eco-nomics: Time for a Better City Bus?

A good friend of mine who was studying automotive engineering at the University of Wisconsin and into using lasers and fluid dynamics to design a better internal combustion engine used to rant every time a city bus would start going after a stop in earshot. His complaint: enormous turbo-lag meaning that the turbo charger on the diesel engine would not kick in until the bus was well under way. What a waste of fuel, he would exclaim. Me, being the economist, would immediately wonder if the non-profit nature of the transit authority was responsible for this - surely a for-profit company would figure out all sources of waste and eliminate them? Anyway, for all of the technological advances in automotive engineering we have seen in the personal auto category, it seems strange that the same is not true for city busses (making me wonder if it is the incentives again - transit authorities are not as responsive to cost cutting perhaps?).

Well, the New York Times is reporting on the NYC transit authority's test of new diesel hybrid busses. Finally, a real advance in bus technology! No doubt these busses will be expensive and this will make it hard for transit authorities to adopt them as the fuel savings will probably not justify the cost. But when the social cost of emissions from city busses are accounted for I am confident they will be a sensible choice. So here would be a cash-for-clunkers program I could actually support: the government helping fund conversions to hybrid bus fleets for big city transit systems.

As an aside as hybrid cars are great in city traffic and diesels are great on the highway in terms of MPG, it seems obvious to build a hybrid diesel car, no? Apparently they coming and when they do, I think I'll have found my perfect car...and a Peugeot no less, super-cool!

1 comment:

Mary Sue said...

I spend a lot of time downtown waiting for buses, and I know I've seen big ol' stickers on some C-TRAN buses announcing that they're hybrids. I wonder if this is the same thing.