London Unveils Next-Gen Diesel-Hybrid Double Decker Buses

As one of the oldest major cities still in existence, London is a cornucopia of culture and iconic imagery. As far as transportation goes, the capital of England is known for three major transportation methods; black cabs, the world’s oldest subway, and double-decker buses. The buses are getting a hybrid makeover with a futuristic look and much better fuel economy.

When it hits roads, the new hybrid double-decker will get more than double the gas mileage of the outgoing models; up to 11.6 mpg. Sounds low, but consider that buses do all city driving, and that doubling gas mileage on the lower end of the spectrum has a more profound effect on fuel consumption than getting a few extra MPG’s out of a vehicle like the Toyota Prius.

It’s the first new London-specific bus design in over 50 years, and a trial of eight of these hybrid buses, designed and built by Wrightbus in about two years time, will begin in 2012. If the buses do as well as they’re expected to do, they could replace London’s aging fleet of diesel-powered double-deckers. This new bus uses a diesel-electric hybrid system developed by Volvo that is supposed to draw power from the battery, engine, or both. It’s all a matter of making the fuel we have go farther and last longer.

Unfortunately, during a trip with journalists out on the local highway, the bus’s low battery warning light came on and the bus driver pulled over and called a tow truck (that ultimately was not need.) Apparently the battery-hybrid system is designed to be recharged in stop-and-go traffic, not highway motoring. Embaressing, and poorly planned if I do say so myself.

These futuristic hybrid buses are about more than feeling good and saving money; it’s fresh new look for the buses of a very old city. We’re already well into the 21st century, but so many places (especially America) are stuck with 20th century technology. Times are tough, and more people the world over are turning to public transit. Projects like this can be a source of pride in a populace, if done right. And I really like the looks of London’s new double-decker buses. Do the aesthetics speak to you too?

Source: Wired | Image: Transport of London

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.