London's Famous Red Buses Going Hybrid Thanks To Volvo

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Volvo 7700 Hybrid Double-Decker in London

Volvo 7700 Hybrid Double-Decker in London

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England: Tea, Big Ben, bowler hats and red buses. One of those things is about be be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century.

It's the famous red double-decker bus of course, much as we'd like to see today's young people going about their business in bowler hats rather than baseball caps.

Thanks to Volvo, London's fleet of red buses is gaining a hybrid drivetrain to mitigate inner-city pollution levels from the traditional diesel engines. Curbs alongside bus stops in London have been blackened by the daily bus traffic ejecting soot onto the road and into the air. As with any big city millions of people commute from one place to another every day, and buses such as the 66-passenger Volvo supplement the thousands of black cabs and the famous Underground subway service.

Volvo doesn't just make cars, it has a highly-respected commercial vehicle arm too, and the company says the new hybrid bus allows fuel savings of 34 percent over the older buses. Emissions are reduced by 50 percent, thanks in part to the hybrid system turning off the engine every time the bus stops.

The system is called I-SAM and uses an electric motor for propulsion, starting and as a generator. The extra power provided means Volvo can use a 5-liter diesel engine rather than the 9-liters of a non-hybrid variant.

The UK's fleet of distinctive red buses takes Volvo's worldwide tally of orders to over 300, with Spain, Finland, Norway, Mexico, Germany and Brazil also using the 7700 Hybrid series. It's going down well with the passengers too, who prefer using the bus to the underground and appreciate the effort to go green.

We don't normally cover commercial vehicles on Green Car Reports, but it's always worth remembering that cars aren't the only vehicles that use our roads, and improvements in mass transit can be beneficial to us all.

And with that, we think a cup of tea is in order...


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Comments (4)
  1. Got to wonder about the relative merits of hybrids versus CNG buses, although as I think about it, can we make a CNG hybrid bus.

    My experience with CNG buses is that they are wonderful. They can pull away from the curb and not leave you choking from the diesel exhaust.

  2. I'd tend to agree. That said, I lived in a UK city (Newcastle) that used parallel hybrid buses for several years and it was fantastic. Apart from a faint whirr they were silent (though painted bright yellow/green so you couldn't miss them) and of course, completely clean at around-town speeds. The engine only kicked in at higher speeds, where choking bus queues wasn't an issue.

  3. I most noticed the difference between CNG and diesel buses at the airports. Some airports have semi-enclosed spaces with large overhanging roofs to keep the rain out. A consequence of this is the diesel pollution seem to hang in the air long after the bus left. Most of the buses were CNG and no problem, but the occasional private contractor that came through with a diesel bus always left me gasping for air.

  4. One little known item about these buses is that Volvo is working on a plug-in version of this same hybrid, where the bus plugs-in for a few minutes at the end of the route. This enables almost 100% electric operation. It might even be possible to upgrade these existing buses!

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