riders keep Silicon Valley humming
Commuters take comfortable hybrid-electric
buses to their jobs in Santa Clara.
of Silicon valley companies like Intel, Applied
Materials, Nvidia and Underwriters' Laboratories,
Inc. are buzzing about a convenient new way
to get to work. They take the train from the
outlying towns where they live to the city of
Santa Clara, and then transfer to the "Breath
Easy Express" (BEE, for short).
The BEEs, three 30-foot, low emission hybrid-elecrtric
buses manufactured by Advanced Vehicle systems,
Inc. run during the peak commuter hours of 6
to 9:30 a.m. and 3 to 6:00 p.m., Monday through
Friday. Each bus has 31 seats and room for nine
standees. The buses have been running with 500
riders a week on two routes.
The shuttle program is sponsored by Silicon
Valley Power (SVP), the city's electric utility,
as part of it's public benefits program. Three
BEE buses were put into service at the request
of high.tech employers in the area. The employers
pay for the buses through their electric bill,
so their employees can ride for free.
"People like the buses," observes
Joyce Kinnear, who manages new technology programs
at Silicon Valley Power. "They're very
comfortable, with plush upholstered seats and
coffe cup holders. The same driver has been
driving on each route since the buses started.
The drivers are very knowledgeable and know
the routes very well.
People are pleased with the route, the buses
and the service."
Surprisingly, the BEE's environmental benefits
are not the biggest issue for riders, according
to Ms. Kinnear, although many engineers are
interested in "the cool new technology."
The Breath Easy Express came about as a way
to reduce air and noise pollution while relieving
traffic congestion, Ms. Kinnear said. "We
wanted to show other cities and transit authorities
in the San Francisco Bay area that electric
vehicles can replace standard diesel buses."
The buses, which can travel up to 120 miles
a day, are charged during off-peak night hours.
The buses are primarily electric, but also have
two Capstone MicroTurbines powered by propane,
which recharge the batteries. The MicroTurbines
make the BEE's emision s far less than those
of conventional diesel buses. The BEE can travel
over 50 miles per hour, providing a fast, quiet
ride to work.
After receiving the BEE buses in November 2001,
Santa Clara took them out of service to make
changes in the propane system. "We didn't
want diesel," Ms. Kinnear said. "We
had issues with the quality of the propane and
the vaporization of the fuel before it reached
the turbines." After the propane industry
helped to resolve these issues, Santa Clara
put the buses in service in MAy 2002.