According to a driver I spoke with yesterday, he said that ABQ RIDE is currently testing a few CNG buses. While I haven't seen them, he said the buses are 40-footers and have a front end like the 700s/900s/6900s, so I am guessing they are New Flyer C40LFRs. Perhaps they could be the replacement for the 300s.

I find this quite interesting. Perhaps ABQ RIDE wants to have a little variety in the fleet, and maybe doesn't want to entirely abandon CNG as a fuel. Of course, don't count on any CNG buses for the Rapid Ride, as there is no space to park articulated buses at the Yale Transit Facility, and the Daytona Transit Facility doesn't have any CNG fueling capabilities.

Of course, ABQ RIDE will have to tender out a new contract for bids if they want to buy new CNG buses. In addition to the New Flyer C40LFR, other options include the North American Bus Industries (NABI) 40-LFW CNG and the Orion VII NG CNG. Gillig is out of the question as they don't make CNG buses. There is also a fourth option (the ElDorado National Axess), however, since there are no large scale operators of the model, I don't see ABQ RIDE taking a risk with a model without a proven track record of reliability and durability.

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Replies to This Discussion

Most of the material I've read assert the hybrids produce less particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and CO2 than do CNG-fueled vehicles. Also, I've read CNG has significantly lower fuel efficiency ratings than do the hybrids, or even diesel by itself. What I haven't seen is a comparison of how much CNG we would be using, and how much that would cost vs how much diesel we would be using, and how much that would cost. Is the price of one more stable than the other (which would make forecasting and budgeting more reliable)? And what are the differences in the maintenance costs between the two systems? I would be very interested in a discussion of the pros and cons for using CNG vs a diesel-electric hybrid.
I am curious about this also. I thought transit agencies got a federal fuel tax credit to encourage use of CNG (I think the article I read was 2-3 years ago about San Antonio public schools deciding whether to buy CNG or diesel school buses). Also on the pro-CNG side; there appear to be greater (percentage-wise) domestic sources of natural gas than there are diesel. If peak-oil concerns are correct, this would be a big factor in deciding what fuel source to use for a vehicle that will be in service for 12 years.

In addition to the issues Busboy raised, another anti-CNG concern is the weight of buses; apparently the engines/storage make the buses much heavier than hybrids, causing more damage to roads. Also, they are slower and noisier than hybrids.

The air pollution issue is interesting. Doesn't Los Angeles uses CNG articulated and standard buses on their Metro Rapid routes?
Well, Los Angeles is an interesting case, since current emissions regulations do not allow for purchase of diesel buses, even if they are diesel-electric hybrids for some strange reason. Busboy is correct that on average the diesel-electric hybrids have been found to be overall cleaner than CNG buses, however, politicians in Southern California don't seem to believe that. Therefore, in southern California, TAs have to buy CNG, LNG, or gasoline-electric hybrid buses.

I actually wonder if ABQ RIDE has considered gasoline-electric hybrid buses as an option. They probably won't deliver the fuel economy of diesel-electric hybrids, as gasoline engines are usually less fuel efficient than diesel engines by design, however, they could offer lower emissions.
When it comes to weight they should be about the same. CNG engines are just modified Diesel engines and the tanks for storing CNG are made of a composite fabric wrapped around a mold into the shape of a tank. Diesel tanks are usually made of steel or aluminum and there is only one where there are multiple CNG tanks on CNG buses. Because of this, the weight is probably the same.


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