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CNG Vehicles Mean Savings for DART

July 9, 2012 in CNG, LNG, NGVs by Rich Piellisch  |  No Comments

Hundreds of NABI Buses and Dozens of Diverse Shuttles

Dallas Area Rapid Transit expects to cut its fuel bills by 60% or even 65% through 2020 via a combination of hundreds of new CNG vehicles and an eight-year natural gas supply contract with the state.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit has ordered 459 new CNG buses from North American Bus Industries under a contract valued at $210 million.

The Texas contract for natural gas will take the agency’s average fuel cost down to about $1 per gallon, says DART VP Mike Hubbell.

Beneficiaries include North American Bus Industries, the Vehicle Product Group (VPG with its MV-1; F&F, June 13), the upfitters Impco Automotive and Creative Bus sales, and Clean Energy Fuels (NASDAQ:CLNE). Clean Energy is building four compressed natural gas fueling stations for DART – although it won’t supply the gas.

Luxfer, Lincoln Composites and Worthington-SCI are providing lightweight fuel cylinders for the various vehicles.

In addition to more than 700 new vehicles on order or already delivered, a further solicitation aimed at retiring DART’s last diesels in 2016 is planned.

DART will start taking delivery late this year of 459 NABI buses, mostly 40-footers but including 48 30-foot buses, through 2015, under a $210 million contract. About 185 buses are expected through 2013. The new NABIs will replace 532 Novabus vehicles, including 172 liquefied natural gas buses.

The LNG buses date from the mid-1990s, Hubbell says, when “LNG was our only viable option. I couldn’t get enough CNG onboard the vehicle for a full day of service.” Today’s combination of far better fuel efficiency – DART’s new buses are projected to get about 3.6 miles per gallon, up from 1.7 mpg, he says – and 3,600-psi CNG tanks – allow the use of cheaper CNG.

Fifteen to 20 years ago, “All they did was flood the engine and hope for controlled chaos, and that’s what they got,” Hubbell says. Today, there is “much better fuel management.”

The new NABI buses for DART will have 8.9-liter ISL G engines from Cummins Westport, Inc., and lightweight CNG cylinders in assemblies by Agility Fuel Systems. Luxfer said in March that it will supply 2,200 carbon composite CNG cylinders for 370 low-floor buses in the Dallas, Texas, area from 2013 through 2014.

DART is to receive this month the first of 123 GM Chevy 4500-chassis/Arboc-body shuttles, upfitted for CNG by Impco.

DART is to take delivery this month of the first of 123 General Motors Chevrolet 4500 cutaway chassis with Arboc shuttle bus bodies, upfitted for dedicated-CNG operation by Impco Automotive. The Arbocs have 6.0-liter engines and Type IV all-composite fuel tanks by Lincoln Composites – two 29 gasoline gallon equivalent tanks on each bus for a total of 58 GGE. They’ll be used for an expanding, DART-operated flex service where riders will be able to purchase deviations from fixed routes to specific addresses, for a modest fare premium.

In the largest single CNG vehicle order ever for VPG, DART contractor MV Transportation will operate 96 of the manufacturer’s MV-1 paratransit vehicles. More than 30 have been delivered, and two more lots should bring the total to 96 this summer. VPG uses Ford-sanctioned BAF-ServoTech software for the vehicle’s 4.6-liter V-8 engine, with Type III CNG fuel cylinders from Worthington-SCI affording a single fill range of about 290 miles.

MV, which is working for DART under a seven-year, $186 million pact announced in January (and is relocating its headquarters from northern California to Dallas), is also to operate 47 new CNG-fueled Starcraft-body vehicles. They have Ford E-350 chassis, upfitted for CNG under a new certification by the Elkhart, Ind.-based Green Alternative Systems unit of Creative Bus Sales using BAF engine equipment. Creative also uses Luxfer cylinders.

OxBlue construction site photos from June 2 and July 2 show progress at DART’s new Senate Street CNG station by Clean Energy Fuels, which is to open next month.

DART’s new CNG rolling stock will be supported by four new Clean Energy fueling stations, in which DART is investing some $38 million. The first, for the VPG vehicles, is to open by the end of August and the next three by late September.

Approximately 11 miles of natural gas pipeline has been upgraded, Hubbell says. Without which, he told F&F, “Volumes would have been so low that substantial additional compressor capacity would have been necessary.”

DART’s next major CNG vehicle solicitation, expected late in 2014, will set the stage for replacement of 80 circa-2004 NABI diesel buses with 46 natural gas units. Fewer buses will be needed as light rail takes over some existing suburban routes, Hubbell says. DART recently celebrated its 250 millionth light rail rider.

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