UTA to test compressed natural gas buses for performance

Aug 24 2010 - 11:24pm

LAYTON -- Utah Transit Authority wants to make its buses green.

The agency is testing alternative-fuel buses to determine how best to move transit users in an eco-friendly yet efficient manner.

Fueled by compressed natural gas, buses are being tested for performance and fuel economy and compared to UTA's new 2010 clean-air diesel and diesel-electric hybrid buses.

The buses will be tested for performance on roads and highways throughout Salt Lake County and throughout several service routes.

UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter said the agency first experimented with CNG buses in 1992, but the buses didn't perform well in the altitude or the region's mountainous terrain.

"A couple of manufacturers have gone back and re-engineered the engines for higher performance," Carpenter said. "So we're testing them out."

The CNG buses were provided by two manufacturers in cooperation with other transit agencies. One bus was manufactured by North American Bus Industries Inc. for Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the other was built by New Flyer for Valley Metro in Phoenix.

Two models of CNG buses will run on the same routes in rotation with UTA's 2010 clean-air diesel and diesel-electric hybrid buses.

"The outcome of these tests will allow us to better evaluate the option of adding CNG buses to our fleet in the future," UTA General Manager Mike Allegra said. "UTA is committed to exploring alternative fuels as another way to reduce fuel consumption and improve air quality."

CNG is a fossil fuel substitute for gasoline, diesel or propane that burns cleaner and is safer than other fuels in the event of a spill.

Ogden city has 10 garbage trucks fueled by CNG that were introduced last year and were acquired through a $2 million lease/purchase agreement and replaced 10 diesel vehicles.

"They are working really well for us," said Richard Brookins, Ogden city's fleet and facilities manager. "Not only do they have less emissions and less pollutants, but it's also a cost benefit for us."

Brookins figures Ogden saves about $89,000 annually at current fuel prices.

In addition to CNG buses, UTA is investigating other alternative fuels, such as biodiesel and fuel cells.

UTA recently added 10 diesel-electric hybrid buses to its fleet with assistance from a U.S. Department of Energy grant through Utah Clean Cities.

In addition, UTA's 2010 diesel buses feature new technologies that significantly reduce nitrogen-oxide and particulate-matter emissions.

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