RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you listen closely, it's a little quieter in Richmond, and the air is a little cleaner. GRTC buses and the Richmond Airport shuttles are converting to CNG, compressed natural gas.
GRTC just received its first 8 buses and 15 vans, and will have another 21 buses and 15 vans next year. They're replacing the entire 155 bus fleet as the buses need to be retired, for three reasons.
Explained GRTC Chief Operating Officer, "The cost savings for the fuel, secondly the environmental benefits from that, and also noise reduction."
Richmond International Airport also just replaced 9 shuttle buses with new CNG shuttles, wrapped in tourism promotions, and built a pumping station to fuel them.
Said Troy Bell with the Richmond International Airport, "We had a natural gas line from the City of Richmond that happened to run right through where the station was built."
CNG is expected to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the buses by more than 20%, and nitrogen oxide by more than 80%.
"It's a much cleaner burning fuel," explained GRTC Director or Maintenance Gerald Brink. "There are no particulates."
And while GRTC and the Airport have invested in the cost of new buses and fueling stations, they expect to save about a dollar a gallon over diesel.
Said Bell of the Airport shuttles, "We could see cost savings perhaps amounting to $25,000 or $50,000 a year."
Richmond trash trucks converted to CNG last year. The Department of Public Utilities says it's now saving $435 a month per truck on fuel, or 48%, plus saving an excise tax of $183 a month per truck.
A CNG fuel pump looks similar to the gasoline pump you're used to seeing. It has a nozzle that attaches to the vehicle's fuel tank. Turn a lever and press a button, it fills the tank within minutes.
But GRTC and RIC hope you'll notice a big difference in cleaner air, lower costs, and quieter engines.
GRTC buses fuel up at a public CNG station now, but will break ground on its own station in October.