By News Editor Aislinn Cottell

Nanaimo is taking another step towards a sustainable future with the implementation of 24 New Flyer buses, an addition which will make the RDN transit system the first fully Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) powered fleet in Canada.

CNG is natural gas (largely methane) stored under high pressure, which can be used in place of gasoline, diesel, and propane. The combustion of natural gas produces fewer of these undesirable gases, and can be found above oil deposits, or collected from landfills or wastewater treatment plants.

CNG is becoming a more popular fuel choice, with approximately 14.8 million CNG powered vehicles existing worldwide in 2011. Many of these in America are government owned, such as transit vehicles, because they can easier offset the cost and storage of CNG fuel tanks. However, any existing gasoline vehicle can be converted to CNG: authorized automotive stores can retrofit a conversion kit for approximately 8K on passenger cars and light trucks. According to FortisBC, using CNG reduces gas emissions by 15-20 percent, and costs up to 25-50 percent less than the standard diesel fuel. Production of CNG also provides employment for BC workers throughout the province.

Consequently, CNG-powered buses are a boon to both the environment and economy, as the fuel is less expensive, and boasts a smaller carbon footprint compared to traditional transit.

“Through developing greener operations with the adoption of best in class technology, BC Transit is demonstrating a commitment not only to environmental stewardship, but also to supporting meaningful, family-supporting jobs for British Columbians in the renewable energy sector,” said Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “This is a significant achievement that we can all be proud of.”

The first 25 buses of the new fleet arrived in Nanaimo in 2014. According to the city, in the two years they’ve been in operation there has been a 2 percent decrease in operating costs per service hour, and a 38.5 percent operating cost recovery in 2015/2016. The new vehicles have also proved their reliability by clocking an average of 53,000 km each in their first year of service.

“These additional 24 CNG buses will build off the success of the first 25, and will make Nanaimo our first fully CNG fleet,” said BC Transit President and CEO Manuel Achadinha. “We look forward to introducing CNG technology to more communities across the province.”

The new vehicles will be arriving in Nanaimo over the next month, and are all expected to be in service by the end of spring. Each can carry up to 81 passengers, and are equipped with closed circuit TV (CCTVO) cameras, making Nanaimo transit also the first fully CCTV equipped fleet in BC. The purchase represents an investment of $15.4 million in the Regional District of Nanaimo Transit System. To help offset the initial costs, FortisBC will provide funding of up to $480K, which represents 50 percent of the cost differential of CNG buses over their diesel counterparts.

  “BC Transit has shown the success of compressed natural gas as a fleet fuel for commercial vehicles,” said Sarah Smith, FortisBC Director, Natural Gas for Transportation and Regional Liquefied Natural Gas. “By completing its Nanaimo fleet with compressed natural gas, BC Transit is not only ensuring benefits for the community through a cleaner, more cost-effective fuel but also for all FortisBC gas customers who will see rate benefits of a gas distribution system that is more optimized year-round.”

According to Michelle Stilwell, MLA for Parksville-Qualicum, “Decreasing ozone-forming emissions in Nanaimo will not only help to further protect the city’s natural beauty, but provide cleaner air for the residents and visitors alike.”

“That is why it is so important that we protect and sustain our environment through the implementation of green, renewable energy innovations. The adoption of a fully CNG-powered fleet is a giant step in the right direction.” 

Aislinn is a third year Bachelor of Arts and Science student majoring in creative writing and minoring in chemistry. New to The Nav team this year, she’s enjoying finding out about all the interesting things happening on campus. Her hobbies include reading, drawing, Netflix, and the copious consumption of coffee.