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New hybrid buses arrive on Tech campus

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Students on campus may notice a new feature as the spring semester is underway: 15 new hybrid electric buses.

After receiving a $39.6 million grant in 2022 stemming from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Citibus rolled out the new additions at the start of 2024. While only 15 are currently in service, a total of 48 hybrid buses are expected to be acquired by Citibus through the grant, according to the Citibus website. Currently, the buses can only be found servicing campus routes, although more will be found off campus as hybrids are phased in.

“Predominantly speaking, all the buses that have been on campus for probably the last probably 8, 10 years have all been the oldest buses we've had in fleet,” said Chris Mandrell, general manager of Citibus.

"So those are the buses that … we're replacing first, and it, just by happenstance, means that the university is going to be getting the benefit of the new buses now.”

The new additions, Allison eGenFlex buses manufactured by Gillig, cost around $802,000 per unit. The main mechanical difference is a slight reconfiguration of the engine, Mandrell said.

“It has a smaller Cummins diesel engine in it, because it has the battery packs to help support the bus more so than just using the diesel engine. So that's really the difference,” Mandrell said.

Hybrid buses cut emissions by as much as 75% compared to traditional diesel, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute.

While it may be hard to tell a difference from the outside, a refreshed interior can make it apparent to riders that these aren’t the same old buses. The lightweight, reinforced plastic seats adorned with Double Ts are a stark departure from the cloth seats of old.

“People will feel so much more comfortable coming in getting into a seat that they can physically look at and wipe and not have to really think about, like, what's inside the fabric,” Mandrell said.

Aside from new seating and reduced emissions, the main benefit to the rider is expected to be reliability of service, Mandrell said. Citibus’ fleet is comprised of over 70 buses — many of which are past or at the end of their expected service life.

“Meaning, you know, we have more breakdowns, which means the buses are coming to your stop when you expect it to, which means you're not getting to class on time, and so on and so forth,” Mandrell said.

The expected increase in service is one Haylee Escamilla, a senior digital media and professional communications major from Levelland, said she is looking forward to. 

“They take a while, they don’t really take five minutes, especially in the cold it gets irritating,” Escamilla, who rides the bus frequently, said. 

With fewer repairs needed, Mandrell said he anticipates a massive improvement in riders’ experiences.

“Statistically, a newer vehicle is not going to break down as often as an old vehicle,” Mandrell said. “So that's what we're going to do when we're driving the average age of our fleet down. Service reliability has a direct relationship with that.”

Mandrell said he estimates the average age of the current fleet's buses to be around 17 years old. After the transition and the implementation of the new buses, he anticipates the average age of the fleet will decrease to around seven years old.


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