Duke students test ride hybrid electric bus

A walkthrough of the articulated bus that Duke students rode.
November 08, 2010Duke students got a first-hand look at a possible addition to the university’s bus fleet last week when Parking and Transportation Services held test runs in a hybrid-electric bus that featured padded seats, wall-mounted work tables and a standing area with padded sides.

The 62-feet long bus that bends in the middle made two trips on the East-to-West Campus C-1 bus route in place of the regular Duke bus. The demo bus holds 56 seats with a capacity of about 130 people, compared to the current fleet that features some buses that are 16-years old and hold up to about 100 passengers.

“If this is a trial, you should keep it!” shouted first-year student Shane Stone , who was quickly echoed by other students riding the bus. “This is definitely comfy.”

As part its climate action plan and with several buses ready to be replaced, Duke is researching potential buses for its fleet. The hybrid-electric bus is created by Nova Bus, a company in Plattsburgh, N.Y. that has supplied similar buses for MTA New York City Transit and the University of Colorado at Boulder, among others .

“Using a bus like this would be a big difference in the amount of gas we use and the greenhouse gas emissions we give off,” said Sam Veraldi, director of Parking and Transportation. “We have to move in a hybrid direction to assist with Duke’s Climate Action plan to minimize greenhouse gases.”

While the bus uses an electric charge to accelerate up to 18 miles per hour, a low-sulfur diesel fuel that Duke already uses for its current busses is used for higher speeds. If the bus is using its electric power, it means that little to no noise would come from the engine.
“The most positive aspect is how quiet the bus is,” said senior Mike Lefevre , president of the Duke Student Government. “The ride was so smooth and the bus was so quiet, you could see students who were excited about the possibility of having this kind of bus.”

Veraldi said there are no immediate plans to purchase a bus; instead, Duke is researching options for the eventual replacement. “We’re not certain when we’ll have something new in our fleet,” he said, “but we’ll work with others at Duke to find the most appropriate time and kind of bus.”