29 August 2000

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), a Southern California air quality agency, and General Motors (GM) unveiled a Community Clean Air Partnership, a joint effort between the two organizations, conceived to help clean the air in many of the most heavily affected communities in the region. GM is committing a range of its products, money, and other resources to the partnership.

The initiative was announced at a news conference by William Burke, Chair of the SCAQMD Governing Board, and Dennis Minano, GM Vice President of Environment and Energy & Chief Environmental Officer.

In an announcement, Burke and Minano revealed that Southern California will be among the first regions in the nation to receive hybrid electric transit buses from New Flyer of America that feature propulsion systems developed by GM’s Allison Transmission Division. The hybrid technology, which uses a combination of electric motors, batteries and an internal combustion engine, reduces emissions, increases fuel economy and acceleration. The first hybrid bus will be delivered this fall, with a second delivery scheduled early next year. The hybrid buses will be equipped with particulate filters.

Last week, the SCAQMD established a non-profit "Adopt-A-Bus" program with the goal of raising funds to retrofit school buses or help school districts purchase natural gas fueled buses. GM, with its contribution of $250,000 for retrofitting of 35 school buses with particulate filters, became the first contributor to this program. According to the SCAQMD, the cost to retrofit a typical school bus with a particulate filter is about $7,500. The program may also pay the difference between the cost of a new regular diesel powered bus and the cost of a new natural gas fueled bus. SCAQMD estimates that cost at up to $50,000 per bus.

Diesel particulate filter technology, used in conjunction with low sulfur fuel, can remove over 80% of the exhaust particulates. “Nothing is more important to a community than safeguarding the future of its young people”, declared Burke. “For instance, school buses and trains, contribute a fraction of the region’s overall air quality problems. Yet children who ride a bus can be exposed to exhaust while waiting near an idling bus, and many rail lines run right next to minority communities”, he said.

In June, the SCAQMD Board has adopted a rule, requiring public transit operators to purchase only natural gas fueled buses. GM prefers a “fuel-neutral” approach, in which different technologies would be compared based on their merits and drawbacks, including the emission performance, rather than regulated by government administration.

In summary, GM is contributing the following items to the partnership:

  • $250,000 to the Adopt-A-Bus program.
  • $400,000 (estimated value) for nine Chevy Express/GMC Savana Bi-Fuel (CNG/gasoline) vans. The 12-passenger vans will be donated to South Coast region community organizations through the SCAQMD.
  • More than $250,000 will be spent by Allison Transmission to develop hybrid electric bus propulsion systems, at least two of which, fitted with particulate filters, will be deployed in Southern California.
  • $1.5 million to develop air pollution reduction kits for passenger locomotives. A kit reducing NOx emissions by 23% is supposed to be available in 2001.
  • $80,000 (approximate value) in hardware, technology and information will be donated by GM to SCAQMD’s continuing effort to develop a natural gas-powered locomotive.

Contact: Dave Barthmuss, GM, (313) 665-9036; Billy Kelly, SCAQMD, (909) 396-3230.

Source: SCAQMD