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Industry Group: Clean Diesel Remains Top Choice for Transit Agencies

Clean diesel continues to be the fuel of choice for transportation authorities in major U S cities, in spite of competitive options aimed at reducing emissions, according to a nonprofit agency that represents diesel engine and equipment manufacturers.

Transit agencies in San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and New York City have all put in new orders for clean diesel or diesel-electric hybrid buses in 2014 and 2015, said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum.

While these orders are part of a general updating of old equipment, they also reflect the continued strength in clean diesel for transit vehicles despite competition from natural gas and other alternative fuel options, he said.

A clean diesel hybrid bus from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority sits in front of the Capitol building in Washington. A number of transit agencies from major US cities are updating their fleets with buses that use diesel fuel or have diesel-electric hybrid engines, according to the Diesel Technology Forum.
(Source: Diesel Technology Forum)

“There is a lot of chatter about alternative fuels and technologies, but at the end of the day transit districts are investing in the latest generation of clean diesel,” Schaeffer said in an interview with Design News. “Sometimes it’s a clean bus, or a hybrid bus. But it still is the most reliable choice.”

Among the recent orders for clean diesel buses and vehicles that use a combination of diesel fuel and electricity are the following:

  • The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has ordered 61 diesel-electric hybrid 60-ft buses and options for up to an additional 363 hybrid 40-ft and 60-ft buses
  • The Chicago Transit Authority is rolling out 300 new clean diesel 40-ft buses and has optioned an additional 150 buses of such type
  • The Detroit Department of Transportation recently unveiled the first of 80 new clean diesel buses; the city also has purchased two diesel-electric hybrid buses
  • The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in Philadelphia is introducing 70 new 60-ft diesel-electric hybrid buses and will deliver another 115 in 2015
  • New Jersey Transit plans to spend up to $35.2 million on a fleet of diesel-electric buses; and
  • The New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority will replace a quarter of its 1,677 hybrid buses with clean-diesel buses.

While diesel fuel is not a green energy source, regulations in the US regarding this type of fuel changed in 2007, resulting in advances of clean diesel technology with the near-zero emissions, Schaeffer told us.

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  • Since 2007, “in transit buses there has been a 98% reduction in particulate matter, or soot, and about the same in nitrogen oxides, which are a precursor to smog,” he said.

    This kind of performance means that the use of diesel fuel is poised to grow in the US, not just for transit vehicles but also passenger cars, he said. Diesels make up about 3% of the total car and pickup truck population, but that is projected to grow to as much as 10% by 2020,” Shaeffer told us.

    This trend is due not only to the cleaner nature of this type of fuel, but also because of an EPA requirement that manufacturers produce cars with a fuel efficiency of 52.5 miles per gallon by 2025. "Manufacturers are looking at diesel as an option so that they can have a bigger vehicle and still have fuel economy,” Schaeffer said.

    Manufacturers that plan to role out new clean-diesel and diesel-electric hybrid vehicles include Audi, with a new hybrid SUV; Nissan, with a new diesel pickup truck; and Hyundai, with a new diesel crossover vehicle, according to Schaeffer.

    Design engineers and professionals, the West Coast’s most important design, innovation, and manufacturing event, Pacific Design & Manufacturing, is taking place in Anaheim, Feb. 10-12, 2015. A Design News event, Pacific Design & Manufacturing is your chance to meet qualified suppliers, get hands-on access to the latest technologies, be informed from a world-class conference program, and expand your network. (You might even meet a Design News editor.) Learn more about Pacific Design & Manufacturing here.

    Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 15 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco, and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga, and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

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