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Henry looking at going hybrid way

By Balford Henry
Observer senior reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, December 22, 2017

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Minister of Transport and Mining Mike Henry believes that Jamaica could be well on its way to an environmentally friendly public transport sector in two years.

Henry told Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine yesterday, that his ministry has been looking at introducing hybrid (battery operated) buses at the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC).

“We are hoping to start a pilot project next year, using electric buses operated by the JUTC but, of course, that will be dependent on the availability of the funding,” he said.

He said that the introduction of hybrid vehicles at the JUTC would also be dependent on the construction of the Portmore transportation hub, which would have to be at the centre of the project until the Half-Way-Tree transportation is also equipped to accommodate them.

“All of this will relate to how soon we can develop the Portmore transportation centre, which will operate as the hub of Portmore as a smart city,” Henry added.

One of the biggest advantage of hybrid vehicles over gasoline-powered ones is that they run cleaner, and have better gas mileage, which makes it environmentally friendly.

A hybrid vehicle runs on twin-powered engine (gasoline engine and electric motor) that cuts fuel consumption and conserves energy. However, there is need for a facility to charge the batteries used by the buses, which is expected to be located at the Portmore depot.

Henry also clarified that early next year the JUTC will be turning to the use of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), instead of the “heavy oil” diesel fuel now being used by its buses.

Prime Minister Andrew had announced at the Red Stripe plant in Kingston on Tuesday that the local bus company would be testing CNG next year, and not Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) as was stated then.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is a natural gas fuel that has been compressed to less than one per cent of its volume (at standard atmospheric pressure), making it naturally odourless, colourless and gaseous. CNG is inexpensive to produce and store making it ideal for numerous fleet sizes: refuse trucks, buses, shuttles, taxis and heavy-duty trucks.

Henry noted that CNG is not only environmentally friendly, but because it is inexpensive to produce and store, it will cut the cost tremendously of JUTC operating its buses.

“CNG is a cheaper and cleaner fuel thant the 'heavy oil' the buses are now using, but there have been queries and we will have to do a pilot project,” he pointed out.

He said that 5-7 “Golden Dragon” buses being built in China for the JUTC will arrive fitted with CNG facilitation,

He said that with the new “Golden Dragon” buses expected to arrive early next year, a pilot scheme is scheduled to start by March using CNG. Based on the results of that experiment, the entire JUTC fleet is expected to be retrofitted to use the CNG fuel,” Henry added.

Both compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) are ways of making natural gas available when it wouldn't otherwise be.

Scientists, globally, have insisted that natural gas — CNG, LNG, or natural gas in other applications — will continue to have a role to play in many facets of the economy. But, there is need to make sure that the role it plays moves the country toward a future where it's complementing clean energy resources, not competing with them.

CNG is used to power vehicles, mostly buses and trucks. The infrastructure for LNG — for cooling and compressing, shipping and regasifying — can be extensive and expensive.

Producing and transporting LNG is also very energy intensive. These factors make it difficult for LNG to compete with US domestic natural gas supplies.

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