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Transit Buses Provide Fuel Competition, Study Reveals

With a general perception that it is a cleaner industry relative to individual motor vehicles, the mass transit industry is increasingly the competitive battleground for transportation fuel providers -- traditional gasoline and diesel, along with the upcoming alternatives, such as natural gas, biofuels and hybrid electric technology. Within the sector, some options are cleaner than others, according to a research report by Boulder, CO-based Pike Research LLC.

Even with the increased competition from natural gas and electricity, diesel buses will remain strong for the foreseeable future, according to the report.

"Diesel engines in 2010 are substantially cleaner than they have been in the past, particularly in the developed world of Western Europe and North America," according to senior analyst Dave Hurst, author of the "Clean Mass Transit" report.

Overall, the report concluded that alternative fuel buses will represent half of all transit buses delivered in 2015. They are "gaining significant traction in the transit bus sector," said the Pike report, which concluded that the trend toward cleaner transit buses will continue in the coming years.

"By 2015," the clean tech market intelligence firm forecasts, "alternative fuel vehicles will represent more than 50% of the 64,000 total transit buses that will be delivered worldwide during that year, up from 28% total bus deliveries in 2010."

The other transit bus fuels coming to the fore are liquid and compressed natural gas, hybrid electric and hydrogen fuel cells.

It is clear that the numbers of hybrid and natural gas buses will continue growing steadily on a worldwide basis, with the number of natural gas and hybrid electric bus deliveries each reaching approximately 16,000 in 2016, the Pike report said.

"The hybrid electric transit bus has the smallest impact on infrastructure, but is more expensive than natural gas buses. Natural gas buses are less expensive than hybrids, but require refueling stations. While in some parts of the United States gas companies will install a refueling station essentially for free, the single refueling point may mean limited range of use for the vehicles. Hydrogen fuel cells have a similar problem because they require a hydrogen refueling point."

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