Alternative fuels, tech take center stage at BusCon 2012

Posted on January 8, 2013 by Alex Roman, Managing Editor

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Environmentally friendly vehicles again took center stage on the show floor, while the education portion focused on new technologies and even featured a new track, at the 17th installment of BusCon, held at Chicago’s Navy Pier in September. The 115,000-square-foot exhibit space showcased products from nearly 125 exhibitors and touted more than 65 vehicles in a range of sizes from small vans to cutaways to an open-top double-deck sightseeing bus.

American Public Transportation Association President/CEO Michael Melaniphy discussed the “state of the industry” during his keynote address at an event that also featured the Mid-Size Bus Manufacturers Association (MSBMA) awards and a presentation about the South West Transit Association’s (SWTA) new veteran employment

METRO’s Frank Di Giacomo, Starcraft Bus President David Wright, Bobit Business Media President/CEO Ty Bobit, Ralph Kramden and METRO’s Mark Hollenbeck (left to right) took part in the ribbon cutting.
METRO’s Frank Di Giacomo, Starcraft Bus President David Wright, Bobit Business Media President/CEO Ty Bobit, Ralph Kramden and METRO’s Mark Hollenbeck (left to right) took part in the ribbon cutting.
Show floor trends
ROUSH CleanTech unveiled a new propane autogas-fueled shuttle bus converted by its newest preferred industry partner, Green Alternative Systems (GAS).

Using their existing sales and service channel, GAS has partnered to provide installations for ROUSH CleanTech propane autogas fueling systems in the transit, paratransit and commercial ground transportation markets.
“With GAS’s expertise and understanding of the transit, paratransit and commercial ground transportation markets, this partnership will open up a wealth of possibilities for fleets across America,” said Todd Mouw, VP, sales and marketing, for ROUSH CleanTech.

Propane autogas historically costs 30% to 40% less than gasoline and is readily available through a nationwide network of refueling infrastructure, according to ROUSH. The company’s propane autogas fuel system delivers equivalent horsepower, torque and towing capacity compared to gasoline versions of the same models, but emits 20% less nitrogen oxide, 60% less carbon monoxide and up to 25% less greenhouse gases.

Winner of BusCon’s Most Innovative New Technology, Loveland, Colo.-based Lightning Hybrids showcased and hosted ride-alongs of its shuttle bus, retrofitted with a hydraulic hybrid system, which uses regenerative braking to help deliver an up to 40% improvement in fuel economy.

The patent-pending hydraulic hybrid system includes two or three efficient hydraulic pumps, a unique power transfer module, a lightweight accumulator system, a valve block and certified hoses, and a proprietary control system developed in conjunction with National Instruments. At $19,995 for the hybrid retrofit, it provides a two- to three-year payback for stop-and-go drive cycles based on fuel and brake savings, according to company officials.

The Vehicle Production Group (VPG) unveiled its all-new 2013 LX MV-1 model during a large-scale event that featured a host of former Chicago athletes, including “Mr. Cub”

Ernie Banks and former Chicago Bears Keith Van Horne and Calvin Thomas, as well as cheerleaders from the Chicago Bulls and president of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, and owner of the very first MV-1 ever manufactured by VPG, Marc Buoniconti.

Wrapped in the stars and stripes, the MV-1 is the only wheelchair-accessible vehicle built from the ground up in the U.S. and is available with a compressed natural gas option. Throughout BusCon, VPG held a sweepstakes where several hundred participants gave their business cards for a chance to win $1,000, with CEO John Walsh choosing the winners during the event.

A hit with many attendees, who wanted to stand on top and check out a view of the show floor, was the Alexander Dennis 36-foot Double Deck Open Top Tourist Bus, which is modeled after the company’s Enviro400 transit bus.

In addition to its 35-foot model, CH Bus Sales displayed the new 30-foot TS30 Temsa. The unique coach features a monocoque design, as opposed to a traditional body-on-chassis, and can seat up to 32 passengers. Both the TS35 and TS30 pair a Cummins engine to an Allison transmission and feature seating with three-point seat belts. The first of the new TS30s are expected to be delivered prior to the end of 2012, with a new 45-foot Temsa set to debut in January.

Additional show floor highlights included three Sprinter vans from Mercedes-Benz with 3-liter BlueTec turbo engines; three different Dallas Smith Corp. chassis with the company’s four-point air-kneeling system; and a large Thor Industries display featuring vehicles from Champion Bus, Goshen Coach and ElDorado National.

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