Sangamon Mass Transit District (SMTD) recently placed an order for the first set of diesel-electric hybrid buses in the fleet. SMTD expects the eight 35-foot Gillig buses to arrive in the Spring of 2024, at which time they will join twenty-six compressed natural gas (CNG) buses to total a majority sixty percent low-emission fixed route vehicles in the fleet for the first time.
“SMTD’s plan is to methodically move toward a fully low-emissions fleet in the next eight years,” said SMTD Managing Director Steve Schoeffel. “By that time, our options for zero-emissions vehicles and what technology best fits SMTD and the Springfield area should be clearer and allow us to begin transitioning to even cleaner-running zero-emissions vehicles.”
Schoeffel said SMTD’s Zero Emission Transition Plan, required by the Federal Transit Administration, is on-schedule, with the goal being twenty-six CNG and thirty hybrid buses by 2031.
“Fixed route buses have a useful life of twelve to fifteen years,” Schoeffel said. “So, with fifty-six to sixty vehicles if we expand in that time, a number of buses in the fleet are being replaced almost every year. We’ve planned out what that transition might look like into 2045 and beyond, and this order is the first step toward replacing full diesels with hybrids. We are excited to see if they can perform at the manufacturer’s expectations, running as much as fifty percent on electric power in zones we can set throughout the area.”
The hybrid buses will cost just over $900,000 each and are being funded with federal low-/no- emissions grant funds and American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds. Support from Senators Durbin and Duckworth, Representatives Darin LaHood, and Nikki Budzinski, and former Representative Rodney Davis helped SMTD win the competitive grants. The eight hybrids replace eight of thirty remaining diesels, or more than a quarter of SMTD’s diesel fleet.
“After leading as one of the first agencies to use CNG buses in the 1990s, SMTD is looking forward to these hybrids serving as the next step toward a fully one hundred percent low-emission fleet,” Schoeffel said. “This is an important transition period for us, and we are excited these vehicles will be on area streets within the next year.”
SMTD is currently awaiting proposals for a study to examine alternative fuel options and plans to utilize the study to further develop their Zero Emissions Transition Plan moving forward. Among the fuel types expected to be considered are hydrogen fuel cell, battery electric, and propane.