Nearly half of new city buses that will be purchased by public transport operators and authorities in the coming years will be fuelled by natural gas, a survey by the international organisation of public transport operators UITP revealed. 

The 70 public transport operators that participated in the survey – serving a population of 100 million people with a fleet of 70.000 buses in 63 cities across Europe –favour alternative fuels across the board. More than 28% of respondents indicate they intend to purchase buses fuelled by CNG (Compressed Natural Gas), another 13% will invest in buses running on biomethane. More than 40% of the respondents want to buy buses with electric propulsion,  in particular hybrid systems of which a significant part will be fuelled by CNG.

The increased interest in natural gas as a fuel is picked up by manufacturers, many of whom feature natural gas buses in their product line-up. At the Bus World trade fair in Kortrijk (Belgium) last month manufacturers presented several new  models running on natural gas, both for the urban and suburban environment.

Swedish producer Scania launched the Interlink LD, the first bus fuelled by natural gas for suburban operations: airport shuttle transfers, short intercity journeys and school bus assignments all wrapped in one. “We can now offer customers an opportunity to substantially reduce their CO2 emissions in line with the growing awareness of the urgent need to reverse global warming,” says Klas Dahlberg of Scania. “Cities around Europe are increasingly restricting the use of diesel and Scania provides the widest range of alternatives.” Scania’s new bus was shown in Kortrijk with the company’s 320 hp Euro 6 gas engine. This engine has the same drivability and torque as diesel, Scania says.

Mercedes-Benz  presented its Citaro NGT on natural gas, fully compliant with the stringent Euro VI for exhaust emissions. It impresses with its quiet running and reduced CO2 emissions according to Mercedes-Benz – both important characteristics of natural gas. The Citaro NGT feautures high-tech gas bottles made of composite material, reducing weight by more than 200 kilo’s. The Citaro NGT is equipped with a 302 hp engine.

Other manufacturers also featured buses on natural gas. German manufacturer MAN said that although it did not present any new models at Bus World Kortrijk, it would remain fully committed to natural gas as a fuel, because of its clear potential as an alternative to diesel. Exhaust emissions from natural gas contain practically no particulate matter and less NOx than traditional fuels, contributing significantly to improving air quality.