A full-size city bus from England that is powered by electric batteries shuttled quietly around Capitol Hill yesterday, drawing stares from tourists and praise from the lawmaker who sponsored its visit.
Rep. Richard L. Ottinger (D-N.Y.) pronounced the demonstration a success, and called upon the federal government and the transit industry to buy some electric buses to test their efficiency and energy-saving characteristics.
"The electric vehicle can be a significant part of the answer to our dangerous dependence on foreign oil," Ottinger told reporters.
The organe- and buff-colored vehicle, which looks like an ordinary city bus but has its door and steering wheel arranged for Britain's left-land traffic movement, has been run in regular rush-hour service in Manchester for three years. It was brought to this country for an electric vehicle show in Chicago last month.
Nicknamed the "Silent Rider," the bus lived up to its name as it went from the Capitol and looped around the Senate Office Building and past the Supreme Court. Instead of the rumble associated with diesel buses, the electric bus motor produced only a low whine. Acceleration was extremely smooth.
Later in the day, the bus was demonstrated at the Department of Transportation.
Yesterday's demonstration was performed by the American affiliate of the British company, Chloride, Inc., which developed the vehicle. The British Embassy also participated in its display.
The 50-passenger vehicle has a top speed of 40 miles an hour and can travel for 40 miles between battery rechargings. A version to be marketed in the United States by Electric Vehicle Associates of Cleveland will be smaller - 35 passengers, 35 mph and a 50-mile range - claimed to be suitable for shuttle, feeder and local community service.
Small electric shuttle buses are being used in Long Beach, Calif., and on Roosevelt Island in New York City.
"Today, we're not trying to sell the bus," said Warren C. Harhay, president of the Cleveland firm. "We're trying to sell the concept."
The batteries used in the large bus weigh 9,000 pounds, and can be removed and replaced, or recharged in place. Officials said the bus would cost about 25 per cent more than a diesel bus, but would be cheaper to run and would last longer.
Ottinger said one benefit is that the electric buses can be plugged in and recharged overnight.