There are still relatively few hybrid buses outside London. Nearly all are being ordered under the Government's Green Bus Fund which seeks to 'top up' the additional costs which these vehicles attract.
What will bring the costs down is more volume. At present they are being built in small numbers so unit costs are high. The finance companies are taking a cautious view so they are expensive to lease. And lastly the technology is moving so fast that each new iteration of hybrid is different to the last and so the performance/reliability/cost index is again reset to zero each time.
London is leading the way with increasing numbers being delivered and in service but so far there are few outside. We are however on the brink of introducing a batch into Leeds and the first ones are being delivered. They will look really smart and there are two batches which will bring the total to 22. They will, I think, be the first ever hybrid buses used on a guideway! Two examples of public transport innovation.
Interestingly public perception and actual efficiency are diverging. The series hybrid product uses effectively a diesel engine as a generator. The bus is moved along by electrical power created by the generator and stored in the batteries. The really behaves like an electric vehicle and on our one in Bath you can turn the engine off altogether and run silently through the city centre with zero emissions.
However, on the face of it, it is so far less rewarding in terms of fuel consumption than the parallel hybrid in which the engine and the battery together work to drive the bus along. Of course since the engine is behaving 'normally' (going up and down as demands are placed on it), to the passenger it sounds like a normal bus.
And so, since we are on the cusp of more hybrids outside London, we are working on a pro-environmental message for the new vehicles in Leeds. They are in standard First livery but the normal white will be silver. They will carry a version of our usual livery but the 'swooshes' will be bolder and not along the skirt panels. But more importantly we do need to think of a word which conveys the pro-environmental attributes of this type of vehicle. Early market research suggested 'hybrid' would do but I wonder if there isn't a cleverer word? This is your chance. If you would like to suggest a word which is a catchy name and which will convey this environmentally-friendly concept, I'd be glad to hear from you.
There will be a prize if it gets adopted!
Even though the livery and branding isn't settled yet, no reason not to show you this photo from James Eastwood of 39201 on delivery in its base silver livery.