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Durham pulling hybrid engines from some buses

Posted February 5, 2014

— Durham officials have found it's not easy being green.

The city decided this week to convert 10 of its hybrid vehicles – light transit vehicles, or LTVs, that transport people with disabilities – back to gas-fueled engines because of maintenance problems. City buses will continue to have hybrid engines.

The LTVs were added to Durham's fleet in 2011. The hybrid vehicles cost $112,000 each, compared with $65,000 for buses without hybrid engines, but officials figured they would save on fuel costs.

"It all comes from our desire to have the most fuel-efficient fleet that we can," said Tobin Freid, Durham's sustainability manager, who helped secure federal funds to buy the hybrids.

The savings never panned out, however, as repairs started piling up.

"After about six months, we started having issues with them," city maintenance manager Scott Mozingo said. "Then, we had issues with parts."

In 2012, the company that outfitted the hybrid vehicles went bankrupt, so Durham could no longer get the parts they needed to make repairs.

"We started parking vehicles as they were breaking down because we didn't have parts for them," Mozingo said.

LTV routes started feeling the pinch as the fleet became smaller, so the city's Transportation Department decided to make another switch.

"We need to have these 10 vehicles back on the road, and the fastest way to do that is through this conversion," said Harmon Crutchfield, assistant director of transit and parking services.

Durham plans to spend $78,000 to convert the hybrid LTVs back to gas engines. Each vehicle will take about a week to be converted.

Freid said the move is disappointing but not discouraging.

"We tried a new technology, and sometimes when you try new things, they don't work out," she said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • swmclamb Feb 7, 2014

    If government did not push the boundaries for innovation, then we would rely solely on profit driven markets for it. Profit margins don't do a dang thing for you and me. Cheaper products and corporations that don't pay fair taxes (if any at all) in the first place. Corporate income taxes amount to only 1/3 of individual income taxes collected annually in the US. Every new technology goes through a testing phase. Durham showed some cojones by testing hybrids on mass transit. It actually wasn't even their fault that this failed. Market conditions take most of the blame. Conversions for existing gas vehicles are in a specialty market even more so than hybrid vehicles delivered from the manufacturer.
    The key is that the original intent here was to save taxpayer dollars. Sore taxpayers can find a whole lot more wasteful spending that has no real benefits for real people. Be glad you live in an area that can afford to build $1 million in skate parks.

  • glarg Feb 6, 2014

    "Freid said the move is disappointing but not discouraging."

    Summary they wasted half a million dollars but dont care because its the tax payers' money, and what do we exist for but to pay for their pet projects?

  • WRAL_USER Feb 6, 2014

    The city of Durham has made the correct move at every turn here. People just want to point a finger when things do not go as planned. I hate that these hybrids did not work out due to a parts shortage. I wish there was a reported stat on the reliability of these LTVs vs the gas fleet, apart from not having parts. WRAL, do some actual reporting for a change... geez...

  • frosty Feb 6, 2014

    It's just the cost of being politically correct rather than fiscally correct. As long as its not your money who cares. Too bad the people that want that sort of thing aren't the ones who pay for it.

  • colinmb123us Feb 6, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Because 1 wouldn't be a good test sample. It could have run flawlessly for years and then, only after they made a much larger purchase, say 10, would they have found out there were reliability issues. Realize that may be hard to understand, but I know people that purchased a Hyundai Excel in the late 80's that actually loved them.

  • jackaroe123 Feb 6, 2014

    It sounds like this is the only reasonable choice to be made at this time, but some people here are acting like they're glad this effort failed. Geez. We should know when to cut the cord when things aren't working, but we should be supportive of the efforts to find creative, green solutions.

  • KnowsItAll Feb 6, 2014

    Good news for big oil, saudi arabia, and neo-cons.

    Not so good for the rest of us who don't reap profits from big oil, and who like breathing clean air.

  • whatelseisnew Feb 6, 2014

    Ah yes, once again the foolish pols waste the money they steal from the people paying the bills. So fine, a hybrid, why not buy a hybrid from Ford? Or giving the leftists in Durham from the company that stole billions from the taxpayers, GM.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Feb 6, 2014

    A more prudent move, especially with the money of OTHER people, i.e. the taxpayers, would have been to buy one of the things to try for a while, not 10. Now taxpayers also have to bear the expense of converting 10 instead of having to only convert 1. smh

    Who signed off on the decision to buy 10 to begin with!?!

  • disgusted2010 Feb 6, 2014

    Its OK to waste this money because those who preach sustainability magically get this money from thin air. This is the problem with this country, the free money will never dry up as long as liberals can tax those who actually work or the conservatives can steer the money to their friends.