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Detroit’s SMART Deploys Alt.-Fueled Paratransit Fleet

Posted on May 4, 2015

Detroit’s Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) provides fixed-route and paratransit demand service for residents in southeast Michigan. SMART’s fleet consists of 233 fixed-route buses and 110 Connector buses covering 1,100 square miles.

In February, SMART began receiving delivery of 61 new vehicles for its Connector paratransit bus fleet. The Ford E-450 vehicles offer an advanced reservation, curb-to-curb service primarily for seniors and people with disabilities. But, they also offer something else different — they’re each equipped with a ROUSH CleanTech propane autogas fuel system.

Adding Autogas Buses
SMART began exploring alternative fuels to address several fleet issues. The agency’s goal was threefold: increase fuel efficiency, lower fuel costs, and find a solution to stringent and complicated emission controls with diesel-fueled paratransit buses.

“We are committed to responsibly and eco-consciously serving the communities in southeast Michigan,” said John C. Hertel, SMART’s GM. “SMART always looks for technology that will improve operations, lower costs, and preserve the environment in which we work, live and play.”

Saving with Autogas
Autogas is the term for propane when used in an on-road engine. The alternative fuel offers savings of about 40% less than gasoline and 50% less than diesel.

SMART is paying $1.15 per gallon for autogas as compared to recent prices of $2.88 for ultra-low-sulfur No. 2 diesel and $2.83 for gasoline.

SMART also chose autogas because, as a cleaner-burning fuel, oil changes and routine maintenance costs decrease. Other autogas fleets have seen extended vehicle life due to less wear and tear on engines.

Reducing Pollution
Another important factor for SMART was environmental considerations. Vehicles fueled by propane autogas emit up to 18% fewer greenhouse gases with 20% less nitrogen oxide, 60% less carbon monoxide and fewer particulate emissions than trucks fueled by gasoline.
Over the lifetime of SMART’s autogas-fueled fleet of 61 buses, approximately 11.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide will be reduced, significantly decreasing the agency’s carbon footprint.

Fueling Smart
SMART also considered infrastructure costs before choosing propane autogas. Autogas fueling stations are less expensive to install than any other fueling station — conventional or alternative. The agency is building fueling stations at each of its three bus terminals.

Planning for the Future
SMART used its annual federal funding apportionment to purchase the vehicles. ROUSH CleanTech completed the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) New Model Bus Testing Program (referred to as “Altoona Testing”) on a ROUSH CleanTech Ford E-450 vehicle fueled by propane autogas. This allows all agencies to apply for FTA funding to assist with conversion costs of that vehicle, including paratransit transportation. Within the next two years, or as more funding becomes available, the agency plans to add more clean-burning, domestically-fueled propane autogas paratransit buses to its fleet.

Todd Mouw is VP, sales and marketing, for ROUSH CleanTech. Reach him at [email protected] or 800-59-ROUSH. To learn more, visit ROUSHcleantech.com.

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