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SMTD unveils new diesel-electric hybrid buses

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SANGAMON COUNTY, Ill. (WAND) - The Sangamon Mass Transit District unveiled the first of its eight new diesel-electric hybrid buses Wednesday.

The hybrids will replace eight diesel-powered buses. SMTD said those buses have reached the end of their useful life.

“SMTD is excited to take this next step in our transition to a fully low-emission fleet,” said Steve Schoeffel, Managing Director. “Our federally required zero-emission transition plan calls for phasing out our diesel fleet with diesel-electric hybrids, which join our 26 compressed natural gas (CNG) buses to turn our fleet to a majority low-emission fleet.”

With the eight new Gillig hybrids, SMTD will have 26 CNG buses, eight hybrids, and 22 diesels.

The eight hybrid vehicles cost a total of $7,248,224.00 and are being paid for by a combination of federal and state funding.

“Our transition from diesel power to low-emission vehicles gives us time to adequately explore the appropriateness of zero-emission vehicles in the future of our fleet,” Schoeffel said. “The newest of our diesel buses will not be eligible for replacement until 2030 or later. So, we have a few years to utilize the hybrids and see if something else makes sense for us – operationally and financially - moving forward.”

The new buses also come along with a new look. “In discussing how we highlight the diesel-electric hybrid power on the new buses, we incorporated some other maintenance-related wish list items,” said Schoeffel. “Our existing paint scheme requires multiple colors and more costly paint jobs whenever a bus is involved in an accident. The new design is a lower white half of the bus, allowing for easier and quicker repainting, and a more modern look.”

Schoeffel went on to say, “In addition to the fuel cost savings, these new hybrids will allow us to program areas of the city to run on electric power. We will plan to start with areas of high concentration like the downtown transfer center at the HUB and our secondary hub at Junction Circle and then add high idle areas like time stops in neighborhoods, medical facilities, and schools as regenerative charging will allow. We look forward to seeing what the new fleet can do.” 

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