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Why haven’t city buses and county school buses converted to natural gas?

Shelby Sebens
School bus

New Hanover County School buses run on diesel fuel. (StarNews file photo)

From Albert Eby, WAVE Transit executive director:

“The option of compressed natural gas vehicles has been studied by Wave Transit as we go through the design process for our new maintenance facility. CNG buses are about $400,000 each, slightly more than regular diesel and less than hybrid. A CNG fueling station costs about $1.5 million. CNG costs about $3,000 a month in electricity to operate. Currently, CNG is a little cheaper than diesel, and the mileage per gallon equivalent is pretty much the same. There would be additional costs from Progress Energy to install lines and new transformer to handle electric load. Compressors require 6 phase/660V and use a lot of power. The CNG fueling station could be open to the public. Overall, CNG is about same cost as diesel but the federal government offers a rebate for CNG. How long the rebate will be offered is not known. The IRS rebate is 50 cents per gallon equivalent of fuel used at end of year. After our analysis and looking at the market trends which indicate hybrid is the preferred energy source in the transit bus market, we felt that CNG would cost more to install, maintain and operate. We currently have two hybrid buses that we are evaluating to determine if we should purchase an additional 16 hybrids in 2015 when our next major replacement is scheduled.”

As for school buses, this is from New Hanover County Schools Transportation Director Michael Wayne:

“I personally don’t know of any county in North Carolina that operates natural gas buses,” Wayne said. “Derek Graham, Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Transportation Services, told me that Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s schools did a study on natural gas buses approximately 10 years ago. He stated that natural gas engines cost approximately $35,000 more than a diesel engine. All school buses operated by New Hanover County Schools have diesel engines.

“DPI manages the process of replacement buses for all of North Carolina’s public schools. DPI replaces district-owned yellow buses based on the age of the bus, mileage of the bus, and the condition of the bus. All buses received from DPI have diesel engines.”

For more questions about natural gas buses, contact Graham at (919) 807-3571.

StarNews staff writer Amanda Greene contributed to this answer.

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3 Responses to “ Why haven’t city buses and county school buses converted to natural gas?”

  1. On June 23, 2011 at 12:26 pm Lee wrote:

    Natural gas engines are regular gasoline engines with a modified carb. They are NOT more expensive that a diesel engine of the same hp, they costs less – a lot less. Where did that guy get his info from????

  2. On June 24, 2011 at 10:32 am Gidget wrote:

    Check out info from SACE (Southern Alliance for Clean Energy) at http://www.cleanenergy.org. They have a great biodiesel program and have worked in several areas retrofitting school buses with cleaner burning systems.

  3. On June 26, 2011 at 10:25 pm k-dawg wrote:

    lee is basically correct… different tank and fuel lines.
    during the “gas crisis” in the early 70’s, some cars in were equipped to run on nat. gas or gasoline with a flip of a switch.

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