Miami-Dade aims for another fleet of CNG buses

Written by Jesse Scheckner on December 11, 2018

Miami-Dade aims for another fleet of CNG buses

A second series of compressed natural gas (CNG) buses could arrive in Miami-Dade by September to replace its aging Metrobus fleet, adding to 300 buses already ordered.

Where they will come from, however, is undetermined.

County commissioners Dec. 4 amended an item directing Mayor Carlos Giménez to issue a purchase order for buses through a Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority contract to allow the county to shop for better price and quality options from contracts nationwide.

“If the vendors know we can go to [multiple] providers, we can negotiate a better price,” he said. “It’s certainly my intent to have a better value.”

Miami-Dade currently gets roughly five new CNG buses per week from New Flyer of America, Transportation Director Alice Bravo said.

If the county were to contract with multiple manufacturers, Mr. Giménez said, it could replace its outdated diesel-fueled fleet much faster.

“Instead of 20 buses a month, we can get 40 buses a month and get those old buses off the street,” he said.

And no matter where the buses come from, he said, county technicians would be able to service them because their inner workings are essentially the same.

“They’re all Cummins engines,” he said. “We end up with the same transmission.”

While the county isn’t restricted to buying through the Central Florida Transportation Authority contract, it must move quickly if it chooses to do so, as the organization’s five-year contract with CNG bus builder Gillig expired Dec. 11.

“We’re exploring the prices through that contract with the vendor, but we’re also looking at other contracts we could also access,” Ms. Bravo said. “These contracts we’re looking at have multiple vendors on them, while this Central Florida contract has only one.”

Miami-Dade can order up to 713 Gillig buses through the contract, which far exceeds its needs.

But to fund any bus purchase, the county would need to access the money from the “half-penny” tax voters approved in 2002.

To access that money, the county either needs approval from the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust (CITT), which oversees the fund, or an override through a two-thirds vote by county commissioners.

Javier Betancourt, executive director of the CITT, said that due to time constraints, if the county opts to buy buses through the Central Florida contract, it would have to do so and seek retroactive approval from his group.

“This is happening in reverse order at this point, so they will be sending us an item for our consideration on the tail end instead of the front end,” he wrote Dec. 6.

Buying buses through an external contract deviates from how the county bought its last round, said Ms. Bravo, who said county typically issues an invitation to bid, a process that takes about four months.

“This resolution will resolve all these issues in the most efficient and expeditious manner,” said Audrey Edmonson, the item’s sponsor. “We cannot sit here and wait another two years for buses. We need buses now.”

Jeffery Mitchell, president of the Transportation Workers Union of America, Local 291, said the residents were “crying for better equipment, more buses,” and not ones built by New Flyer, which he said are problematic.

Miami-Dade as of last week had accepted 134 of 300 buses from New Flyer, Ms. Bravo said, of which a small number had tire imbalances that caused a “resonance frequency” between the bus’ body and tires made it vibrate when traveling at 65 miles per hour.

After a battery of tests to identify and correct the problem, preventative measures were established to ensure it didn’t occur once the buses were delivered, she said.

New Flyer also agreed to extend warranties on several bus components and conduct additional inspections during the warranty period.

“Since that process was put in place there’s been no more vibration issues,” Ms. Bravo said.

But Mr. Mitchell said the vibration problem is one of several that Miami-Dade transit workers found with New Flyer buses.

“We should pick the standard, not the prototype,” he said. “Right now, anywhere from 20 to 30 buses – brand new – aren’t useable. These are not the best buses. The further you go along, we’ll find out we didn’t get the best bang for our buck.”

County bus technician Antonio Gonzalez said nine of the new buses were indefinitely out-of-service due to “catastrophic engine issues.”

“New Flyer has another seven or eight buses they can’t find what the issues are,” he said. “As a veteran technician, I can tell you that these buses are lemons.”

Jennifer McNeill, vice president of sales and business development for New Flyer, said few of the buses her company delivered are out-of-service due to mechanical or systemic problems.

Nine were out-of-service because of accidents, she said. Eight were with Cummins for engine work. The remaining eight were being serviced by New Flyer or being dispatched.

“Of the [200 buses delivered], the number that are sitting with Miami for [pre-delivery inspection] are being worked through at a rate that’s amenable to both New Flyer and Miami-Dade Transit,” she said. “Our ask today is simply to be allowed the opportunity to compete for further buses.”

On Monday this week, Ms. Bravo said that while the New Flyer buses her department accepted into service were “performing well,” the county was exploring its options.

Babcock Ranch In Florida Is To Sustainable Living What Tesla Is To Sustainable Transportation

July 15th, 2018 by

Tucked into a corner of Southwest Florida about a half-hour from Fort Myers, Babcock Ranch is what developer Syd Kitson calls the most sustainable new community in America. It started when Kitson, a former NFL player, purchased the 91,000 acre ranch in 2006. He immediately struck a deal to sell 73,000 acres of the property to the state of Florida for a wildlife preserve. He then donated 440 acres to Florida Power & Light with the stipulation that it construct a solar power plant on the land. Today, that parcel is covered by 350,000 solar panels that feed electricity into the electrical grid.

Then Kitson went to work with local partners to design and build a new community on the remaining 17,000 acres. “We want to be the most sustainable new town in the United States,” Kitson tells CBS News. “We had the advantage of a green field, a blank sheet of paper. When you have a blank sheet of paper like this, you really can do it right from the beginning.”

The town gets most of its electricity from the nearby solar power plant during the day. Although the community has 10 small battery stations, Kitson says large-scale battery storage is still too expensive (Elon Musk would disagree), so at night or on cloudy days, the community draws power from the utility grid. “The people here pay the exact same amount that everybody else pays in the Florida Power and Light network,” he says. “Clearly, if you have a number of cloudy days in a row, it will impact the efficiency and the available electricity that comes from the solar field, but this is Florida, and if you don’t like the weather, just wait 10 minutes.” Last year, when Hurricane Irma swept across that part of the state, not one solar panel was damaged.

The first residents began moving in at the beginning of this year. 500 homes are expected to be completed by December. 19,500 dwelling units are planned over the next two decades. All of the structures in Babcock Ranch will feature the latest energy efficiency technology and offer 1 gigabit internet access. Alexa will handle all smart home functions. Outside, there are 50 miles of nature trails through the wildlife preserve next door. A farm-to-table organic gardening project is underway and a K-8 charter school is planned. Residents will be encouraged to leave their cars at home as they walk, bike, or take advantage of the electric autonomous shuttle bus fleet that will service the community.

“This community is a unique opportunity to really implement sustainable technology in a practical way,” Haris Alibašić, a professor at the University of West Florida, tells Good.com. “Cities around the world have started adopting 100% renewable energy targets, but it’s both intriguing and encouraging to see this happening from a developer.” He adds he would like to see more affordable housing included in the plans for the community. A three bedroom home in Babcock Ranch sells for $195,000 and a four bedroom town house lists for $795,000. “I think the ultimate key to long term sustainability is attracting people from diverse incomes and backgrounds,” he says.

Last January, Richard and Robin Kinley became the first family to move to Babcock Ranch. They chose a house near a lake, which has now been named Lake Kinley in their honor. “The air is nice and clean here and I think these types of communities are the future,” Robin says. “I felt very much like when I bought a Tesla back in 2013 and I said, this is definitely is going to make it,” Richard adds. “I felt the same way about Babcock Ranch.”

Their first neighbors were Donna and James Aveck, who moved in a few weeks later. “We love the innovation here,” Donna says. “We think it’s a very small planet and we want to do our part to conserve it.” Babcock Ranch has thought of every detail when it comes to sustainability. Jim says, “When I go to the gym, which is huge, and I get on the treadmill, the energy I generate by running actually feeds back into the electric grid.”

Communities that have already transitioned to 100% renewable energy include Aspen, Colorado; Burlington, Vermont; Greensburg, Kansas; Rockport, Missouri; and Kodiak Island, Alaska, according to the Sierra Club. But Babcock Ranch has designed sustainability into the entire fabric of the community from the beginning. Just as Tesla has driven change in the transportation industry, Babcock Ranch will encourage other cities and towns to make sustainability part of their community DNA.

Electric Vehicles Begin To Bite Into Oil Demand

 

Projections have suggested that the advent of electric vehicles will have a dramatic impact on oil demand and now its starting to show. With China adding the equivalent of London’s bus fleet every 5 weeks, that’s 279,000 barrels of oil a day removed from demand.

The latest report from Bloomberg New Energy shows that economics are driving the change, with the total cost of ownership of electric buses far outperforming the alternatives. The report says a 110kWh battery e-bus coupled with the most expensive wireless charging reaches parity with a diesel bus on total cost of ownership at around 60,000 km traveled per year (37,000 miles). This means that a bus with the smallest battery, even when coupled with the most expensive charging option, would be cheaper to run in a medium-sized city, where buses travel on average 170km/day (106 miles).

Today large cities with high annual bus mileages therefore choose from a number of electric options, all cheaper than diesel and CNG buses. The BNEF report says, ‘Even the most expensive electric bus at 80,000km per year has a TCO of $0.92/km, just at par with diesel buses. Compared to a CNG bus, it is around $0.11/km cheaper in terms of the TCO. This indicates that in a megacity, where buses travel at least 220km/day, using even the most expensive 350kWh e-bus instead of a CNG bus could bring around $130,000 in operational cost savings over the 15-year lifetime of a bus.

For every 1,000 battery-powered buses on the road, about 500 barrels a day of diesel fuel will be displaced from the market, according to BNEF calculations. In 2018, the volume of oil-based fuel demand that buses remove from the market may rise 37 % to 279,000 barrels a day, or approximately the equivalent of the oil consumption of Greece. By 2040, this number could rise as high as 8 million barrels per day (bpd).

This will make a significant dent in oil demand but overall the market appears confident that petrochemicals will make up the difference in demand. That question remains open however, as the plastics market particularly continues to evolve.

Stephen George, chief economist at KBC, agrees with the International Energy Agency predictions that petrochemicals will grow to replace transport fuel demand. His projections don’t show a peak in oil demand, rather a plateau around 2040 ranging between 110 and 110 million bpd, with no signs of a peak and drop by 2050.

He does accept that everybody uses different scenarios and that the strategies need to be resilient in facing market change and says, “I see the majors embracing renewables more than previously.” Oil demand however will continue to increase due predominantly to plastics growth.

Today the U.S. is the biggest per capita consumer of plastics at 150 kg per person per year. That includes bottles, packaging, durable goods (many cars now built out of plastic); 3-d printing and a myriad number of uses. Europe and Japan are not far behind and George predicts that demographics and the growth of the middle class will drive up the global average which is currently 45 kgs per person per year.

China alone has gone from 5kgs to the global average in 5 years and is expected to drag the global average up as it grows. India is bound to follow and while its consumption is roughly around 8-10kgs per capita this is likely to develop rapidly.

So it’s the downstream derivatives of oil that are going to drive demand with George saying, “150kgs per capita is the non combustible oil demand that replaces the transport fuel demand.”

The real question it seems is whether this will be new plastics, or recycled and reused. New methods are arising constantly, driven by new regulation and breakthroughs in technology. In April 2018, it was announced that scientists had accidently discovered an enzyme that eats plastic, which when scaled up could have a significant impact on the way in which plastic is treated within the economy.

At the moment it ends up predominantly as a waste product, clogging up pipes, water sources, beaches and in dumps. If we find a plastics breakthrough, from recycling, to bioplastics to new forms of processing, the future line of oil demand could look very different.

The intersection of innovation and global challenges such as climate change and sustainable development are driving change in the economy. A founder of The Net Imperative Ltd and New Energy Finance (later bought by Bloomberg), author of Conquering Carbon: Carbon Emissions, Carbon Markets and the Consumer and a journalist for many years, I teach on the MSc Global Energy and Climate Policy and Finance, Sustainability and Climate Change at School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.

ICYMI: This new Florida city will produce its own power and run self-driving buses

BY DANIEL SHOER ROTH

 

Posted January 09, 2018 07:29 AM, Updated January 10, 2018 08:25 PM