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March 08. 2013 12:21AM

Nashua buses on road to greater efficiency

NASHUA - The city is continuing its quest to replace municipally owned vehicles with more energy-efficient trucks and cars, this time focusing on city buses.

This week, the aldermanic finance committee authorized the purchase of a $420,000 compressed natural gas bus for the Nashua Transit System, one of two fuel-efficient buses expected to be bought this year by the city.

"We are hopeful that it is one of the fleets we can make compressed natural gas," Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said of the Nashua Transit System, often referred to as City Bus.

Last fall, the city was recognized as the first community in New England to aggressively replace its city vehicles with more energy efficient vehicles. Nearly 40 compressed natural gas vehicles have been deployed by the city to date.

"They have come way down in price," said Lozeau.

Compressed natural gas vehicles are not only good for the environment, but are saving the city significant money in fuel costs, she said.

Nashua is paying about $2.30 a gallon for its compressed natural gas vehicles, she told city officials on Wednesday.

The new 32-foot bus, an El Dorado, will replace one of the current buses in the Nashua Transit System fleet that was purchased in 2000.

The existing bus fleet is reaching its 12-year life expectancy, Lozeau said. Once the new bus is built and delivered to Nashua, an old bus will be sold.

About 80 percent of the $420,000 purchase is being funded with a federal grant, while the New Hampshire Department of Transportation and the City of Nashua will each pay 10 percent of the remaining cost.

Last summer, aldermen approved spending $87,000 in escrow on two CNG buses. Earlier last year, just six natural gas vehicles were in operation by the city, but by the end of 2012, about 40 were running throughout Nashua.

Most of the energy-efficient vehicles are public works or trash trucks. Hybrid vehicles are more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said previously. Through a public/private partnership with Alternative Vehicle Service Group, the city was able to open a compressed natural gas fueling station, she said

The station is fully accessible to the public.

Although the finance committee approved the purchase of one new CNG bus, Lozeau said the purchase of a second CNG bus is on hold until the state is able to come up with its matching fund.

"We are ready for it when they are ready for it," she told city officials.

A few months ago, Nashua was honored as one of 10 winners of the NGVAmerica Achievement Award, which is given to people or organizations in recognition of their outstanding contributions in leadership, vision and innovation to the advancement of natural gas as a vehicular fuel.

"Nashua is the first municipality in New England to take a comprehensive approach to fleet replacement utilizing CNG in many city departments affecting light, medium and heavy-duty vehicles simultaneously," said a release from NGVAmerica. "The City of Nashua should be commended for creating the first public-private partnership CNG station in the state."

Nashua has also been included in Harvard University's 111 Bright Ideas in Government for its CNG program.

"Nashua has made significant improvements in air quality and reductions in petroleum use through the purchase of its replacement vehicles to cleaner burning CNG engines. Reduced emissions allow engines to last 25 percent longer and create significant fuel savings," said a release from the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

khoughton@newstote.com


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