The Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) has created local history by converting the first bus in its fleet to run entirely on compressed natural gas (CNG).
The process was done right locally at the company's engineering department's workshop using the Corporation's crew—with the aid of two technicians from Myanmar.
"This has been 24 years in the making and we congratulate the team on their accomplishment," PTSC chairman Dr Vincent Lasse said yesterday.
The Express received the exclusive first look at the finished bus yesterday at the PTSC compound, City Gate, Port of Spain.
The project took about a week "of long hours" for installation, and after a further few weeks of safety tests and checks, the vehicle is expected officially join the fleet by January.
"It's about saving money. The Government has been trying for several years to convert the fleet and utilise the large supply of CNG we have available to us here in the country," vehicle maintenance supervisor Esther Sookoo-Pierre said.
The bus has a 210-litre diesel equivalent CNG-run engine. One fill-up on diesel costs about $230 per day.
On Monday, the bus made its first gas station stop for a fill-up costing just $97— saving the corporation more than 50 per cent in fuel costs.
The PTSC had held long discussions over the years with several local companies to find a supplier of conversion kits that would allow 100 per cent CNG, instead of a combination of diesel and CNG. It settled on PowerTech out of California, USA, an affiliate of local distributor G Singh Marketing out of Duncan Village. The company agreed to a free installation and demonstration process for three buses (two 40-ft buses and a 20-ft bus) as a pilot project.
The conversion of the second bus is underway. The corporation is also converting a maxi-taxi style bus to show the maxi-taxi associations how well the conversion process works on their style of vehicle. The corporation hopes after this initial test phase, the team can get cracking on converting the entire fleet—almost 400 buses—at a rate of five to ten buses a week.
"The first conversion took a week, but that was to get accustomed. Strangely, the hardest part was not so much training, but convincing the team that CNG was safe and the equipment would not explode," Sookoo-Pierre said.
Eventually they got over their fears, to successfully convert the first 100 per cent CNG bus in the English-speaking Caribbean.
This bus is the first to exceed the PTSC's benchmark emissions standards according to the European Union's criteria for diesel engines.
"Our current newest members of the fleet are at Euro 3. The current standard is Euro five. Older buses are at Euro two. Once the fleet is converted, all the buses, even the old ones, will exceed Euro five emission standards. It will be a great way for the Corporation to help the environment and reduce our carbon footprint," Sookoo-Pierre said.