Next-generation bus ready to hit the road

Hopes are high that the Composite Hybrid bus will set new transportation standards for efficiency and longevity.

The high-tech bus, which runs on electric power and clean-burning compressed natural gas, is expected to join the shuttle fleet servicing Boston's Logan International Airport by mid-March. It is only two-thirds the weight of a conventional bus, which greatly reduces fuel consumption and emissions, says Douglas Wheaton, alternative-fuel program manager at the Massachusetts Port Authority.

A special fiberglass-like composite keeps the weight down and increases durability. The bus performs as well or better than conventional metal buses in side-impact collision tests, Mr. Wheaton says.

Plus the bus is designed with the driver in mind. Engineers from TPI Composites, the Rhode Island company that built the bus, worked closely with Massport drivers during the design and construction to ensure it was ergonomically correct. The special order bus cost $1 million but if the project succeeds, prices are expected to fall.

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