NEWS RELEASE, 11/17/98

UC Berkeley hosts world debut of passenger bus powered by new natural gas technology; Tue., Nov. 17

By Janet Gilmore, Public Affairs

BERKELEY -- Officials at the University of California, Berkeley, announced the debut of a passenger bus that is the first in the world to run on a new technology that offers the power of a diesel engine without the environmental and health hazards of diesel emissions.

UC Berkeley officials joined with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and other air quality agencies on Tuesday (Nov. 17) to announce this new technology, known as the High Pressure Direct Injection system (HPDI).

The HPDI system is manufactured by the British Columbia-based Westport Innovations Inc. It was recently placed in a UC Berkeley passenger bus to convert the vehicle from diesel fuel to natural gas.

"What we're trying to do is decrease pollutants and burn cleaner fuel," said Kevin Mathy, manager of the campus's Transit Operations. "We're helping to develop a new technology and trying to clean up the environment."

The effort to replace diesel engines with alternative fuel sources is nothing new, especially in light of studies that link diesel exhaust particulates to cancer. But other efforts to replace diesel engines with natural gas systems have proved costly and time-consuming.

The natural gas fuel injector installed in the diesel engine of UC Berkeley's bus represents a technological and environmental breakthrough, according to Westport President David Demers.

"This technology provides an immediate solution to the problem of diesel emissions while keeping the advantages that diesel engines offer," said Demers. "The primary objective of our business is to develop this technology as the leading approach for clean air diesel engines."

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District and its Transportation Fund for Clean Air (TFCA) provided most of the funds to convert three of UC Berkeley's buses to natural gas. The first newly converted bus began running on Tuesday of this week, and the two others will be converted and begin touring the campus in early 1999.

The replacement of heavy-duty diesel buses is one of the most cost-effective projects for reducing air pollution, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Since its inception in 1992, the agency's transportation fund has provided $14.6 million for the replacement of 145 diesel buses with cleaner fuel school buses.

"Because our Transportation Fund for Clean Air specifically targets projects that reduce emissions from motor vehicles, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is especially proud to play a role in demonstrating this new technology," said Ellen Garvey, Executive Officer of the agency. "Technology advances like HPDI should help to speed the conversion of diesel buses to air friendly compressed natural gas."

The conversion of the UC Berkeley buses to the new HPDI system was also funded by the California Air Resources Board and the California Energy Commission.

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