Web Extra: How are you preparing your alt-fuel fleet for winter?

Posted on December 12, 2011

Champaign Urbana Mass Transit District, which serves the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, has 32 hybrid diesel-electric buses. The agency keeps bulk tanks of DEF in a heated wash bay area.
Champaign Urbana Mass Transit District, which serves the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, has 32 hybrid diesel-electric buses. The agency keeps bulk tanks of DEF in a heated wash bay area.

Winter is upon us and temperatures are dropping, even here in Southern California. In colder climates that have actual weather, transit agencies such as New York City Transit are bolstering their equipment and service strategies for the inevitable snow, ice and freezing temps.
Since many university transit systems incorporate alternative-fuel and hybrid vehicles in their fleets, we asked system operators how they are preparing these vehicles to keep them running in top condition over the next few months.
Here are their responses:

“There are no issues expected for fueling [our] hybrid coaches during the winter months. However, the new 2010 DEF engines which are in the hybrid buses do require diesel exhaust fluid to be added. This fluid will freeze. Therefore, the bulk tanks of DEF are kept in our wash bay area which is heated. That fluid is dispensed to the fleet from there. There is a heating system on each coach that keeps the DEF tank from freezing and this will be a another preventive maintenance step that will have to be performed on a scheduled basis.

Currently, [Champaign Urbana Mass Transit District] has 32 hybrid diesel-electric buses: five 30-foot Gillig buses, four 60-foot articulated New Flyer buses, and 23 40-foot New Flyer buses. We have an order in place with New Flyer for an additional 13 40-foot buses and have begun receiving these vehicles; we expect to receive the full complement in the next month or so. After receipt of that order of 13, we’ll have a total of 45 diesel-electric hybrid buses.”

Jan Kijowski, marketing director
Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District
Urbana, Ill.

“Blacksburg Transit (BT) has nine hybrid-electric vehicles; seven, 40-foot and two 60-foot articulated. We’ve operated these vehicles for almost 18 months and have not had any fueling issues to date.  BT is fortunate enough to be able to store all vehicles inside year-round so this obviously helps keep them in good running condition. Out of the nine hybrids, [so far] one is wrapped to identify it as hybrid-electric.  We have a grant to develop creative for the rest of the hybrid vehicles, but haven’t completed this yet.”

Fiona Rhodes, marketing specialist
Blacksburg Transit
Blacksburg, Va.

“We operate with 20% soy biodiesel. Our fleet is stored inside overnight. We didn't have any special fuel problems last winter and don't anticipate any this year either.”

Mary Gaston, assistant general manager
Muncie Indiana Transit System
Muncie, Ind.

“We use biodiesel and we change our formulation in the winter, plus use additive to make sure it does not gel. Also we limit the percentage in the formulation to help.”

Jude Kiah, director
Go West Transit
Macomb, Ill.

"Our vehicles are hybrid electric. They have a gasoline engine with an integrated battery component and therefore do not require any changes in fuel for winter use."

Executive Director of University Relations
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, Mich.

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