Fort Lauderdale Buys Hybrids For Airport Shuttles

Broward, Fla., airport officials hope five new hybrid shuttle buses will help make the county's air a little cleaner.

But the environmentally friendly buses come with a cost: close to twice the price of a traditional bus.

The buses were added to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport's fleet in March. The airport also runs more than 50 buses and three trams using biodiesel fuel -- a mixture of traditional diesel with fuel taken from products like corn and soybeans.

Airport officials said the airport is the first in the state to run its entire fleet on biodiesel.

Like hybrid cars, hybrid buses are more expensive than their traditional counterparts -- about $510,000 each compared with $283,000 for a regular bus.

And biodiesel fuel prices tend to be higher than ordinary diesel.

But the additions are worthwhile because of their environmental benefits, said Randy Bond, general manager for ShuttlePort, the company that operates the fleet.

The company runs fleets in airports across the nation, but Fort Lauderdale is the only one using biodiesel. Other airports, like Phoenix and San Jose, use compressed natural gas, but Fort Lauderdale doesn't have the infrastructure necessary to support that, he said.

"It's because of the clean air initiatives of the county, and the airport is trying to make it a cleaner environment," Bond said.

Hybrids use less fuel and have lower emissions, meaning no thick black clouds of exhaust puffing out of these buses.

Biofuel also has been touted for its lower emissions, although some scientists disagree about the fuel's overall savings.

Hybrid shuttles are similar to hybrid cars. They run on a combination of battery power and burning fuel. The batteries are recharged while the buses run on fuel.

A new battery is needed every six years.

"You don't have to plug it into a wall socket," Bond said.

They are more fuel efficient. The traditional bus ranges between 2.7 and 4.2 miles per gallon at the airport. The hybrid gets between 3.6 and 5.1 miles per gallon.

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