TRANSIT took note of this article in the New Straits Times which announces that hybrid (diesel-electric) buses will arrive in Malaysia soon, with test buses brought into the country in April.
Hybrid buses to make debut soon (NST)
By Ben Tan
JOHOR BARU: Public transport in the country will become greener with the usage of diesel-electric buses here this year.
Called hybrid buses, the coaches emit less smoke and are cheaper to maintain. The buses, which run on diesel and battery power, will be the first in the country to use hybrid technology and are said to consume 30 per cent less fuel than conventional ones.
Currently, only hybrid cars such as the Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Prius are available in the local market.
It is learned that a local company called Autotech International Sdn Bhd will be bringing in the first unit for a trial run here by April.
The Klang Valley-based company has sourced the hybrid technology from a China-based company, China Enviro Power Limited, which has been supplying the buses to several developed countries for the past two years.
A source close to the company told the New Straits Times that the buses, costing RM1 million each, is a 12 metre-long coach with 40 seats.
[TRANSIT: Aaaarrrghhhh! RM1 million for a bus?????]
It is powered by a 3- to 4-litre diesel engine with an electric power train.
The source also said government-linked public transport company Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd is close to inking a deal for the acquisition of the buses.
[TRANSIT: Uh oh!]
The source added that Autotech is in talks with Iskandar Malaysia and local bus operators on the possibility of purchasing the buses.
When contacted, Autotech chief operating officer Nik Iruwan Nik Izani confirmed that the buses will be brought in, adding that the company was keen to develop public transport in Malaysia.
He said the company was in talks with several local partners on the feasibility of assembling the buses here.
It is learned that the bus chassis will be imported, while the coach-building and refurbishment will be carried out by a company in Senai.
The hybrid buses that will be brought in for the trial run will only be used for urban and suburban transportation.
Singapore has conducted its own hybrid bus trial programme late last year through public transportation company SMRT Corp and Brickston Transport, a factory worker transport company.
Pan Malaysian Bus Operators Association president Datuk Ashfar Ali said the introduction of the hybrid buses was a positive move towards reducing emissions.
“I don’t see a problem with the hybrid buses provided they are safe for passengers and the authorities approve it for Malaysian roads.”
Last year, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had assured world leaders at the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen that Malaysia was committed towards reducing the effects of global warming.
Hybrid buses are the ‘latest thing’ in bus technology, touted as the biggest solution to the heavy diesel emissions and carbon emissions of the existing bus system.
The diesel engine powers an electric motor which actually drives the bus. Electric motors are far more efficient at using energy than conventional mechanical motors.
The electric motors also allow electric braking (using the electric motor as a brake) and regenerative braking (the recovery and storage of kinetic energy from a bus when it brakes).
That is the good news.
But there is bad news as well. The RM1 million cost of the bus is one example of bad news. Then there are the problems with maintenance of hybrid buses, which are highly complicated with their high-tech design and computer software.
We all know about the issues with maintenance of conventional buses in Malaysia!
The biggest problem is that the reduction in diesel use and carbon emissions promised by the hybrid manufacturers have not been met in real life operations.
TRANSIT sincerely hopes that bus operators in Malaysia are not taken in by the charm of hybrid technology. It would be easier, cheaper, and more effective to invest in EURO IV diesel for the entire country than it would be to purchase these hybrid buses for a few routes.