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Saturday, August 11, 2012

CAR OF THE DAY - Routemaster Diesel Hybrid

This is the NB4L - New Bus For London - Routemaster

The bus has 3 doors - front - middle - back. Note the Wenloc statue in foreground. Wenloc is the symbol for the London 2012 Olympics.

 In the back is a little porch and a spiral staircase to the top. It was designed for nostalgia - people long for the old bus like this.

One thing I do not like is the new upstairs front windshield - it is much shorter than the old one.

You can see the steps in the back and the steps in the front on the left.

This driver was on break but he was happy to show me his new $450,000 bus. He is in the stairwell. The bus is super quiet and the interior is nicely finished. They expect the buses to last for 40 years of full service.

While visiting the Apple Store in Covent Garden - I stumbled on one of the new red diesel hybrid London Buses. It goes by several names - NB4L (New Bus For London) - Routemaster - Diesel Hybrid - but whatever you call them - they are really cool.

First off - they are not cheap - $450,000 each. They are figuring on a 40 year use cycle - that brings the cost per year down quite a bit. They are 37 feet long - 14 feet high - 8 feet wide - and can haul 90 people. 

It is a true hybrid/diesel/battery system. The bus its powered by an electric motor with a large storage battery. A diesel engine engine flips on to charge the battery when needed. The diesel engine runs at a constant RPM - one for optimum fuel efficiency - lower pollution - and with much lower noise. 

Other features that remind you of the old Routemaster buses are the three entrances - front - side - back - and also two staircases. The bus can be configured to have a crew of one or two. During busy times - all three doors are operating and a conductor watches over the two cabins while the driver drives. During off-peak times - it can be reduced to a crew of one and having the back entrance closed. 

The bus has been a political football. London Mayor Boris Johnson ran on a platform of building a new bus that brought back the rear entrance and conductor. Only 20 of the buses have been put into operation - the future is not certain.

One of the highlights of London for us - is riding in the top of a double decker bus in the front seat. You are 10 feet above all the other action - giving you an excellent view in all directions through a gigantic windshield - as big as a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood. 

When you ride in buses - you must buy a credit card for 5 pounds. Then you can put money on the card and use it for the buses and the subways. When you get on the bus - a card reader blinks red or green. Green means you paid for the ride - red means there is not enough money on your card. No money ever changes hands. 

During the Olympics - if you bought a ticket for an event - like basketball - it included a pink transportation ticket that gave you free bus or subway transportation anywhere in the city for that day. We took advantage of those pink tickets using them even when we were not going to an Olympic event.

One thing I do not like about the new bus is that the big windshield at the topic is much smaller. It is still 8 feet wide - but maybe only 2.5 feet high instead of 4 feet - it does cramp the view. 

Other good things about the new bus - it is much quieter - the engine never revs - it just idles. Sometimes it turns completely off. Also - all the lights inside and outside are LED lights which use less power and seldom burnout. 

These buses will replace the "bendy buses" - the ones that look like a caterpillar with two pieces connected by a rubber passage way. 

This is the old Routemaster - only two are in service now.

I have seen these old Routemasters turned into motor homes. One was being used in Washington DC as a tour bus and he went under the wrong bridge - cutting off a passenger's head. 

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