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Cambus works to reduce carbon footprint

BY JORDYN REILAND | SEPTEMBER 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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The national average price of diesel fueld, according to the Daily Fuel Gauge Report fuel, is $3.839.

And while the price of diesel isn't going down anytime soon, some schools — including the University of Iowa — are attempting to find ways to cut down on their carbon footprint.

Cambus manager Brian McClatchey said there were a few things Cambus does in order to reduce its carbon footprint, including using alternative fuels, spending less time idling, replacing older buses, using smaller buses for less frequent stops, and eventually looking at hyrid-electric vehicles.

"The biggest problem with the hyrbrid-electric buses are the costs," McClatchey said. "Having hybrid electric buses alone adds around $200,000 to the cost, which comes out to approximately $500,000 for one bus."

Cambus is a self-supporting department with 35 buses, and the operation generates funding with help from the student-service fee UI students are required to pay, parking operations fees, the Iowa Department of Transportation, and some federal assistance from the federal gas tax.

Another issue that would affect the community is the height of the hybrid electric bus. Its batteries have to be mounted on the roof for cooling purposes, and the buses would not fit under the railroad overpass near Hubbard Park. This would mean lifting the structure, and that would be a major cost.

"There is no reason not to test these biodiesel fuels and hybrid buses out, but both of these technologies have had their issues and still need some tweaking," UI urban and regional planning Professor John Fuller.

CyRide, the city bus system that collaborates with the city of Ames, Iowa State University, and ISU's Government of the Student Body, implemented Cybrid in August 2010. These buses have small biodiesel engines with an electric motor for efficiency and are estimated to save 23,000 gallons of fuel.

CyRide has 12 hybrid buses, and Director of Transit Sheri Kyras said officials are beginning to see the enviornmental and financial benefits.

"We wanted to be known as an environmentally friendly community and believed by adopting this new technology, we would be doing that," she said.

This particular technology cost the Ames community approximately $525,000 per bus compared with a regular bus, which costs $400,00, but they make up for the price hike with fuel savings. CyRide received almost all of the funding through federal and state funding but primarily through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"We took a large financial risk with this new hybrid-bus technology, and it is nice to see the benefits pay off for the community," Kyras said.


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