The wheels on the bus may go round and round, but it will be cleaner and quieter in Chattanooga.

Two new 35-foot hybrid electric buses powered by clean-diesel and electric motors arrived this week to become part of the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority's fleet.

"This is the bus of the future, I believe," said Tom Dugan, CARTA's executive director.

The buses came at a cost of about $500,000 each, compared to $300,000 for a traditional diesel-powered bus, Mr. Dugan said. CARTA showed off the buses Thursday morning at their facility on Holtzclaw Avenue.

The funding was not part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, instead it came from federal and local money CARTA usually gets to help support its operation, he said.

Hopefully, the entire 55 fixed-route bus fleet will be hybrids in the future, he said.

Steve Jett, chairman of the board of CARTA, toured the buses.

"They're pretty sleek," he said.

Only one step leads into the buses as opposed to three in the old buses, making it more handicap accessible, officials said. Mr. Jett said the buses were six inches wider than the old diesel buses.

Some roads in Chattanooga are narrow, so drivers will need to orient themselves with the vehicles, he said.

"It will make it a little tougher on the driver," Mr. Jett said.

One of the important steps for the hybrid buses is fuel mileage and running a motor system that will be cleaner on the environment, officials said.

Mark Hairr, research program director with the Center of Energy Transportation and the Environment, said fuel savings would be substantial because diesel mileage goes from about four miles a gallon to eight miles a gallon.

"They run those day after day everyday," he said. "That certainly adds up. Eight versus four is certainly significant."

Brad McAllister, staff member for Chattanooga Green, said it will take steps to reach goals of cutting carbon emissions in Chattanooga.

"If they're looking at replacing the entire fleet, that's a darn good start," he said.


* 12 inches taller than CARTA's old buses

* 4 more miles per gallon than CARTA's other buses.

* 6 inches wider compared to old diesel buses.

Source: Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority