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More CNG buses to convert entire fleet

September 14, 2016 10:49 A.M.

Plans to upgrade Kamloops Transit’s full fleet of buses to compressed natural gas (CNG) powered vehicles got a green light from city council Tuesday

The decision comes after a pilot project showed these buses to perform well in all four seasons while garnering significant savings in operating costs.

Following the construction of a fast-fill fuelling station, 25 CNG buses have been in operation for over a year and another 19 will begin arriving in early 2017 to replace the remaining diesel buses – making Kamloops a fully CNG-enabled transit community.

News of the additional buses wasn't greeted with open arms by all on council Tuesday. Coun. Denis Walsh pointed out that the buses aren't as clean as many perceive.

"I think there's this illusion with people thinking these are environmentally friendly," he said, noting that CNG greenhouse gas emissions are similar to those from newer diesel buses.

That's not a fair comparison since the City wouldn't be getting new diesel buses, said Mayor Peter Milobar.

"I'm fully appreciative of this," he said, referring to the new CNG buses. "Only in Kamloops are we going to be concerned about saving $340,000 a year on transit."

That's the estimated savings in fuel costs with full CNG conversion.

"All in all, I see it as a win-win," Milobar added. "These buses are a heck of a lot quieter and friendlier to neighbourhoods they're driving through than diesel buses."

They also produce less particulate than diesel, which is a Level 2 carcinogen, according to the WHO.

Certainly the government was keen to promote the expansion in a news release Wednesday.

“The results from the CNG pilot programs in Kamloops and Nanaimo have been a resounding success,” said Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “Not only are these buses a cleaner-burning fuel alternative that benefits our environment and furthers the province’s action plan to reduce emissions, but they’ve proven to be more cost-effective than their diesel counterparts. This is a win-win investment with positive impacts for the long-term.”

“A good public transit system can lead to a healthier and more active population, which is one of the many benefits of our investment,” said Health Minister Terry Lake, and MLA for Kamloops-North Thompson. “These new, cleaner buses will also reduce greenhouse gases and create a healthier environment for residents in my community.”

Along with the environmental benefits, the new CNG buses will come with modern technologies to bring Kamloops into the 21st century of transit ridership. Upon their arrival in early 2017, all Kamloops buses will be equipped with closed circuit TV to increase the safety of passengers and drivers. BC Transit will also go to tender this fall for new, real-time technology that will allow customers to access precise schedule information to plan their trips with more accuracy.

“The investment in CNG reinforces our commitment to sustainable solutions while providing cost effective services to the community of Kamloops,” said Manuel Achadinha, chief executive officer and president of BC Transit. “These new buses will also be equipped with CCTV cameras, which will improve safety and security on the entire Kamloops bus fleet.”

The investment is part of the recently established Public Transit Infrastructure Fund that is providing BC Transit-served communities with almost $160 million in federal and provincial funding for transit improvement projects throughout the province.

Steve Hansen - Diesel Technology Forum says:
September 15, 2016 06:33am

There were some very questionable statements made by Kamloops officials in this story.

1) CNG is better for the environment than clean diesel? - Part 1

I recommend people read the stories in the NY Times ("Study Finds Methane Leaks Negate Benefits of Natural Gas as a Fuel for Vehicles" 2/13/14) and USA Today ("Natural gas vehicles worse for climate than diesel ones?" 2/14/14) to see how natural gas is a very questionable replacement for diesel.

2) CNG is cheaper than diesel? - Part 1

I suggest people read the story from the Houston Chronicle ("Economics of natural gas don’t always add up for fleets" 6/12/14). As one fleet manager stated about their experience with natural gas: "We’re not saving any money. I’m glad to hear we’re not the only one struggling with fuel mileage.”

3) CNG is better for the environment than diesel? - Part 2

I recommend people read the analysis from the Clean Air Task that compared new CNG buses with new clean diesel buses. The analysis, entitled “Clean Diesel versus CNG Buses: Cost, Air Quality, & Climate Impacts” (2012) found: “Both new diesel and new CNG buses have significantly lower emissions of NOx, PM, and HC than the older diesel buses that they replace. According to EPA’s MOVES emissions model a 2012 model year diesel bus emits 94% less NOx per mile, 98% less PM, and 89% less HC than a model year 2000 (12-year old) diesel bus. A model year 2012 CNG bus emits 80% less NOx, 99% less PM, and 100% less HC than a model year 2000 diesel bus."

4) CNG is cheaper than diesel? - Part 2

I also recommend readers take a look at the Aug. 25, 2014 Wall Street Journal story entitled "Slow Going for Natural-Gas Powered Trucks: Premium Prices and More Efficient Diesels Leave Sales in First Gear" which outlines the numerous setbacks natural gas is having in trying to transition into the transportation sector.

I also recommend the August 28, 2014 Green Car Reports story entitled "Why Aren't Natural Gas-Powered Long-Haul Semi Trucks Selling Better?" which outlines why the higher cost of natural gas vehicles and gas' lower energy density continue to hamper its progress in transportation.


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