Hybrid Vehicles
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The City of Hamilton is one of the leading municipalities in Ontario to transition their fleet to greener alternatives. Hamilton's Green Fleet Implementation Plan was created to demonstrate Hamilton's commitment to improving air quality, preventing climate change and implementing one of the country's leading low-emissions fleets.
As part of the Plan, Hamilton has replaced 60 older sedans and pickups with hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) and will introduce renewable fuels, such as five per cent bio-diesel, for the City's diesel fleet in spring 2007.
The City's Transit division has also purchased 12 new diesel-electric hybrid buses which, added to a large complement of natural gas buses, will contribute to Hamilton's air quality goal.
Hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) use a combination of two motors: an electric one and one that is gas-powered. The combination of the two motors makes HEVs desirable because while the gas engine retains the familiar convenience offered by gas-powered vehicles, the electric motor lowers the amount of emissions produced compared to a vehicle with a gas motor.
"Full" hybrids such as the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape hybrid do not burn gas while stopped or moving at low speeds. They have an improved fuel economy of up to 50% (compared to an equivalent non-hybrid model). "Mild" hybrids, on the other hand, require the use of the gas motor as they start up, but do not burn gas while stopped. These HEVs improve the fuel economy 10-15%. Examples of mild hybrids include any hybrid built by Honda, and the GM hybrid pick-up trucks.
Some of the cutting-edge technologies used by HEVs includes:
  • Regenerative braking: charges the battery by storing kinetic energy as the vehicle decelerates.

  • Electric motor assist: assists in acceleration/hill climbing where extra power is temporarily needed, and allows the gas engine to shutoff when the vehicle is traveling at lower speeds.

  • Automatic start/shutoff: allows the engine to automatically shut off when the vehicle comes to a halt (it automatically turns on again as the vehicle begins to accelerate), thereby preventing greenhouse gas emissions in idle traffic.
HEVs also tend to be made of lighter materials to maximize fuel economy and feature designs like low-rolling resistance tires that reduce drag.
Companies that have integrated hybrid vehicles into their fleets include Toyota, Honda, Chevrolet, GM, Ford and Lexus. 2007 will introduce hybrids from DaimlerChrysler, Nissan and Saturn, to name a few. Companies developing HEVs for upcoming years include Hyundai, Porsche and BMW.
The City of Hamilton is implementing seven hybrid buses into the HSR Fleet in 2007. Benefits to hybrid buses include:
  • Smoother/more rapid acceleration: an electric motor provides additional power to the gas engine.

  • Lower maintenance costs: although the overall system is more complex, none of the individual components involve unfamiliar technologies for mechanics, plus the engines are smaller and some parts (e.g., brakes) are better in HEVs than gas-powered autos.

  • Better fuel economy: total emissions are reduced up to 50% compared to buses fueled by diesel or natural gas.

  • Electric brakes: reduced wear on brake pads means brakes are safer and last longer, and regenerative braking during deceleration recharges the battery.
In March 1999, Regional Council agreed to endorse the concept of a hybrid vehicle partnership. The concept involved the purchase of fuel efficient, low emission hybrid electric vehicles by the Ministry of the Environment, Hamilton Hydro, and Hamilton Street Railway.
During the year 2000, the Ministry of the Environment purchased a Honda Insight, Hamilton Hydro purchased a Toyota Prius and Hamilton Street Rail purchased two Honda Insights.
In 2001, Clean Air Hamilton performed An Evaluation of Hybrid Vehicle (HEV) Use in a Canadian Fleet Environment. Results showed overall satisfaction with hybrid vehicle use by the City, and this initiated further development of Hamilton's hybrid fleet with plans for the city to have 55 hybrid vehicles by the end of 2006.

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