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County Starts Using Electric Buses

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Original Title:
San Joaquin Transit System Begins Conversion to Hybrid Buses

The first of a fleet of cleaner-burning buses was unveiled Wednesday in Stockton. The San Joaquin Regional Transit District is just about ready to roll out six hybrid public transit buses.

The buses, which cost $490,000 apiece, run on a combination of diesel and electric power. The district is making the conversion because all bus transit systems are required to meet tougher air quality standards. The man who took the wheel of the new bus Wednesday noticed a difference right away. "I get to breathe clean air for a change," said driver Melvin Day, "Right now, (I'm) smelling diesel all day long."

The bus manufacturer had more good things to say about the buses. "The buses you see will greatly reduce fuel consumption and emissions up to 90 percent, and they're really quiet," said General Motors Company representative Chris Collett.

Collett says the hybrids are equipped with a diesel engine in the back and batteries on top. At start-up the bus is powered by electricity then diesel power takes over. Collett said the principle is that motors become generators and recharge the batteries. General Motors has been making the hybrid buses for three years and has 485 in service in 38 cities. Stockton is the first municipality in California to make the switch-over.

Regional transit General Manager Donna Kelsay says the plan is to replace all of the district's 50-bus fleet to hybrid buses in the next three years. The district is able to make the changeover in part because it went in with other public transit systems to buy in bulk and a federal grant is paying for about 80 percent of the cost.

One other bit of positive news: bus fares will not be increased because of the new buses.

(This story was provided by News10 KXTV Sacramento.)

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