Future Buses and the Fuel Race

Diesel, as of right now, is the primary fuel for city buses around the United States, but will it stay on top forever? Since 1996 the percentage of city buses that operate on diesel has been getting on the decline. With just last year in 2018, diesel only fueled 42% of the buses across the US. A pale comparison to twenty years ago when diesel fueled 94% of the buses.

Natural Gas is the main reason to thank for the decline of the petroleum-based motor fuel. In 2018 natural gas fueled 28% of city buses in the US. Cleveland, Ohio purchased 133 compressed natural gas (CNG) buses four years ago in 2015. The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority estimated $75,000 in savings per bus.

CNG emits 22% less greenhouse gases than diesel and even more than gasoline with a 29% reduction. The main issue with natural gas is the lack infrastructure, with the need of pipelines and fueling stations that cater to the fuel.

Fully electric buses, or E-buses, are having a much harder time breaking into the market, due the technology being fairly new and a lack of infrastructure. Making up roughly 0.1% of the bus fleets in the US, some transit agencies have their eyes set on the emission free fuel, where the application is needed.

Infrastructure is the obstacle that E-buses face, even more so than natural gas. The needs of a vast amounts of power and the funds to pay for the stations as well as the buses themselves requires transit authorities to buy into the “complete system”. A decision that would make most city officials uneasy.

It is clear that diesel is being used less and less by city buses every year. The next technology for buses is on the horizon, and if the trends stay the same diesel is on its way out.

Reference: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-08/oil-lost-its-crown-now-the-race-to-fuel-buses-of-future-is-on