Published On: October 1, 2012

Electric Hybrid Buses Showcase Newest Technology

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Curitiba has once again become a pioneer in the use of new technology for public transportation. One of the first cities in Brazil to begin using buses running on bio-diesel, Curitiba is continuing its efforts to find sustainable solutions to its transportation needs. The newest hybrid vehicles operate on two power sources, a diesel engine and an electric motor. Compared with conventional buses, the new vehicle’s diesel consumption will be reduced by 35% and emissions reduced by up to 90%. Also, the electric motors are virtually silent.

The measure is part of a business deal struck in 2011 between the City of Curitiba and Volvo when the City agreed to purchase 60 electric hybrid buses from Volvo. This is the first time the electric technology has been implemented in Brazil, while being entirely manufactured in Curitiba. Each hybrid bus costs the city about R$600,000, about 60% more than a bus with a diesel engine. However savings from the fuel economy alone is expected pay for the original investment in six years.

In this electric hybrid bus, the electric motor is used to start the bus and accelerate it to a speed of 20km/h. The diesel engine begins operating at higher speeds. Each time the brakes are applied, the energy from deceleration is used to charge the batteries of the electric motor. The diesel engine is off while the vehicle is stationary. As buses typically spend a good deal of time stationary, particularly at rush hour, having the diesel engine off accounts for the 90% reduction in emissions.

The Interbairros I Line in Curitiba, linking the central districts to the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (PUCPR) in Prado Velho, will be using hybrid bus technology exclusively starting this month. The first ten hybrid buses have begun circulating while another twenty buses will be added to the operational fleet by October 20 along the Detran/Vicente Machado, Água Verde/Abranches, Juvevê/Água Verde, and Jardim Mercês/Guanabara lines. The thirty additional buses being produced by Volvo for the City will become part of public transit in Curitiba starting next year.

For URBS director of transportation, Antônio Carlos Araújo, the hybrid buses are part of a model that has been progressively implemented into Curitiba’s public transportation grid, bringing auditory comfort, fuel economy and fewer pollutants.

Despite the higher price tag on hybrid buses compared to conventional ones, the costs will not be transferred to passengers, so riders can still expect to pay R$2.60 for a ticket. According to the URBS director, the 30 new hybrids being added to the fleet this month out of over 2000 buses in Curitiba are not enough to force an increase in the bus fare.

Araújo still believes that as the manufacturing of hybrids ramps up, purchase costs of the buses will fall, allowing the City to purchase more vehicles. “When we first bought the bi-articulated buses, they were also more expensive than conventional buses, but today the price of those buses has come down,” he says.

A hybrid bus has a shelf life of 10-12 years. Initially the plan is to exchange the battery four times within that period – the most expensive component of the vehicle. Araújo says, however, that the manufacturer expects this number to decline as technology improvements result in the creation of longer-lasting batteries.

Beltway Completion

Rua Sete de Abril in the Alto XV neighborhood has become a two-way street. Previously the street ran one-way between Ubaldino do Amaral and Rua XV de Novembro. This is the fifth and final change required to complete the Beltway in accordance with Municipal Transit (SETRAN). The changes are intended to relieve traffic in the downtown area.

The Beltway is comprised of 23 streets that form binary corridors in eight of the city’s neighborhoods: Rebouças, Alto da XV, Alto da Glória, Centro Cívico, Bom Retiro, Merces, Batel and Agua Verde. After the changes are implemented, though routes may become slightly longer, traffic should flow more easily, allowing efficient travel between neighborhoods without the need to go through downtown.

Since the implementation of the Beltway, four other streets have undergone changes. Alberto Bolliger, between Simon Bolivar and Itupava is now one-way. The same has happened to Augusto Severo, between Paraguassu and Doutor Goulin. This road is now one-way between Barão de Guaraúna and Alberto Bolliger. Simon Bolivar has undergone two alterations: between Alberto Bolliger and Augusto Severo the road is now one way, while between Rua Mauá and Augusto Severo the road is two-way, but left-hand side traffic.

[Source: Published originally in Portuguese on September 25, 2012 by André Simões]

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