January 16, 2014

Utah Forges Ahead with Natural Gas Vehicles

From school bus to state fleet conversions, Utah is rapidly pursuing the adoption of natural gas vehicles (NGVs) through proposed state-level legislation.

One prominent initiative currently underway is House Bill (HB) 41. It would allocate $20 million towards Utah’s Board of Education for school district grants to replace buses manufactured before 2002 with alternative fuel-powered buses, including those that run on compressed natural gas (CNG).

Grant monies would also support infrastructure development for natural gas school bus fleets by installing alternative fuel stations or retrofitting existing maintenance facilities to service or maintain alternative-fuel school buses.

Utah Clean CitiesCoalition Executive Director Robin Erickson says the motivation behind the flurry of NGV-related legislation is to improve air quality.

“This is the first time I’ve seen so many initiatives,” Robin says. “We’ve all talked about the air quality problems – we rely so much on tourism and economic development, people are talking a lot about the health impact of emissions.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Now website, parts of Utah are currently experiencing an air quality index (AQI) of 101-150 which is unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as individuals with lung disease, older adults or children. The AQI is an indicator of air quality that affects human health and the environment based on air pollutants such as fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and reduced sulphur compounds.

“Many of the school buses are very old buses as there haven’t been a lot of funds made available for their replacement,” Robin says. “If they can be powered with an alternative fuel like CNG, it will certainly help with air quality.”

Cummins Westport currently produces the spark-ignited 8.9 ISL G, currently available for school bus and urban transit natural gas applications, among others. In addition, the company is also producing the ISB6.7G engine, designed for school buses and package delivery vehicles, among others. The engine will meet 2017 greenhouse gas emission standards and is expected to be in production in 2015.

Related Reading:

Senator Scott Jenkins sponsors Senate Bill 99, which seeks to ensure that at least half of Utah’s fleet used for passenger transportation is powered by CNG by July 1, 2018: http://www.usgasvehicles.com/news_detalle.php?id=2173

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