Diesels, Not Hybrids, At Least For Now (Updated)

Updated October 23:  The TTC amended the staff recommendations by adding two clauses, roughly as follows:

  • The TTC should withhold award of the optional 120-bus add-on order for clean diesels with Daimler Buses until the problem with batteries on the existing fleet are resolved.  If this is not done, the TTC should go with an alternative supplier.
  • The TTC should investigate conversion of the 2009 bus puchase from Hybrid to Clean Diesel.  Staff should explore the options for contract termination as well as the impact of the technology change on funding from various sources.

It is unclear how the first point can be achieved given that the cutoff date for exercising the existing contract’s add-on provision is October 31, 2008.

At this point it is clear that the 2010 bus order will be diesel, and there is a strong move to convert the 2009 order as well notwithstanding possible advances in battery technology.

(Original October 16 post below)

The TTC’s next order of buses will be clean diesels, not hybrids, according to a report on the agenda of the October 23 TTC meeting.

Battery reliability on the hybrids has been far below expectations — barely over a year’s life as opposed to the expected four years.  Although new battery technology is expected to resolve this problem, it is too early in the technology cycle for TTC to commit a large bus purchase to this.  Moreover, other problems (unspecified in the report) affect the hybrid design.

Therefore, the TTC will order 120 clean diesels for delivery in 2010.


Sean Marshall writes about trolley buses on spacing.ca.

Tess Kalinowski writes about hybrid buses on thestar.com.

11 thoughts on “Diesels, Not Hybrids, At Least For Now (Updated)

  1. I read the report, and noticed this: “Once the Li-Ion battery systems are proven, TTC can revert to the original plan to purchase hybrid buses when the next generation of better drive technology becomes available in the future, and also consider the conversion of the original hybrid buses, currently equipped with lead acid batteries, to Li-Ion technology.”

    Something to consider should one decide to purchase a hybrid automobile as well.


  2. It is interesting that while this report states there will be a $24.2M capital cost saving purchasing an equivalent number of the latest clean diesel vs. hybrid-electric buses; it does not state what the additional annual operating costs are of operating on 100% diesel.

    The higher cost of hybrids, amortized over an 18 year life expectancy may look much more favourable when considering their fuel economy savings. Nor is there any discussion of what the differential environmental impact of clean diesel is vs. hybrids (eg. NOx, GHG, etc.)

    This is but yet another example of the unfortunate tendency of TTC staff to frame an issue in terms favourable to their desired outcome, omitting pertinent data, rather than providing the Commission with a balanced, objective analysis of both operating and capital cost, and environmental impact considerations to allow the Commissioners to decide the issue~in the public’s best interest, as opposed to that of TTC Staff.

    With so much uncertainty and volatility regarding both long term diesel pricing and hybrid reliabiltiy/lithium-ion battery technology, I believe the Commissioners should craft a compromise motion that retains TTC flexibility into the near future.

    This is in additional to the unprecedented current economic uncertainty that makes continued ridership growth a very speculative affair, should Toronto/Ontario face a severe economic recession or depression, such as that cost the TTC 90M rides 1989-1996.


  3. Of course, the TTC is already purchasing 135 (5 this year, 130 next year) hybrids with this new battery configuration, so it’s not like they are completely waiting out this new technology.

    According to the drivers out of Arrow, the bus that has been retrofitted with Li-Ion batteries (1062) is considerably better performing than the others.



  4. My goodness is the TTC obssesed with the Orion VII or something. I think they should test out the new model New Flyer has developed (the Xcelerator) not sure if the spelling is correct. I think they are far better than the current D40LF’s the TTC has (I’m speaking comfort wise since i ride them virtually everyday in Etobicoke and in efficiency).

    Steve: The TTC put out a large tender for buses a few years ago, and Daimler / Orion won out because their claimed delivery dates were better than Flyer’s. This 120-bus order is the last of that contract, but, yes, we’re stuck with Orions as the backbone of the fleet for some time.


  5. Interesting. I just posted on Spacing an article describing the only successful “alternate propulsion technology” used by the TTC for its bus fleet.

    I had expected to see parallels between the Hybrids and the CNGs, apart from the fueling infrastructure required for CNGs and not diesels, I had thought there will be problems with these.

    Steve: The article talks about trolley buses and includes a few nice shots of Eglinton Terminal from the City Archives.

    It’s worth noting that Adam Giambrone requested a report on trolley buses:

    Chair Giambrone submitted a communication dated May 14, 2008 requesting that staff investigate and report on the cost effectiveness, environmental benefits and operational impacts of re-establishing trolley buses on some of Toronto’s busiest (non Transit City) routes.

    Report to be submitted to Commission in September 2009.

    Now don’t get too excited. A report on trolley buses and a report on transit priority signalling in the same year! I wonder how long we will actually wait for both of them.


  6. I am sure everyone here realizes that clean diesel is an oxymoron, there is no such thing as a clean diesel, even the cleanest diesel still spews out a fair amount of pollution, maybe not as much as an old GM bus, but still considerably more then it should, and so do the hybrids, we should be using the cleanest technology we can, even if that means the financial cost is a little higher. We are today polluting our children’s air.


  7. Steve, I seem to recall some funding from a higher order of govt. being contingent on the buses being hybrid. Is this funding now superceded and thus TTC will not be “losing out” on any prov or fed money by choosing diesel-only?

    Steve: That was a one-time arrangement left over, I believe, from the Martin government. The same crew refused to recognize that increasing the size of the transit system, regardless of propulsion technology, got people out of cars and reduced the total carbon footprint.

    Considering the gyrations around trading credits, and the clear recognition that we have to look at the big picture, the position was nonsensical. Unfortunately, “common sense”, regardless of the political stripe, is not common in Ottawa.


  8. I daresay that the day a “clean diesel” transit bus becomes one of the largest sources of automobile pollution will also be the day that we have finally eliminated all non-emergency vehicles and all tractor trailers of cheap plastic containers headed to Wal-Mart.

    In other words I am willing to accept the pollution from a clean diesel bus. I suspect that it is small when we start to look around at the more unncessary emissions in our environment, such as yet another plane bound for the Dominican.


  9. Rob M says, “I suspect that it is small when we start to look around at the more unncessary emissions in our environment, such as yet another plane bound for the Dominican.”

    As opposed to having 40 cars driving to Florida (assuming 3-4 occupants in those cars)? Everything in Rob’s comment up to that quote made an excellent point, then he went and spoiled it with a comment about emissions from air travel.

    While an argument about the necessity of travelling to a warm sunny place is valid, albeit not on topic for this forum, it can be quite surprising just how much lower the emissions can be in air travel, even for some short distances. On a recent business flight from Minneapolis to Chicago, the pilot told us the fuel required and doing the math by dividing it by the number of passengers (just passengers, not crew) the consumption per passenger could be matched if four people were crammed in a Toyota Yarris for that same distance (forget more than two suitcases, though).

    Steve: We must also remember that people take a lot of “non essential” trips by transit, and the city wouldn’t be the same without all the events that these represent. Life is about more than just a there-and-back commute.


  10. hmm – it would be difficult to get to the Dominican in a Yaris.

    The performance of the hybrids is disappointing. However, it seems that they were running on high-speed routes – such as the Hwy 27 Rocket.

    What is better:

    1. 10 x $700,000 hybrids
    2. 14 x $500,000 diesels

    You can operate more service with the diesels than you can with the hybrids – even without considering reliability.


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