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SMART Introduces Propane Autogas Buses to its Fleet

Thursday, May 21, 2015/Categories: SMART News, Public Notices, Featured Homepage News

SMART is proud to introduce into its fleet this month, 61 new Connector paratransit propane autogas fuel system buses.  The new propane Connector buses will be fueled with affordable, clean, domestically produced propane gas; making SMART the second largest propane autogas powered paratransit fleet in Michigan and one of the top five largest in the United States.  

“SMART is committed to responsibly and eco-consciously serving the communities in southeast Michigan.  By using domestically produced propane we help support local jobs and our economy,” said John C. Hertel, General Manager, “In addition, using the autogas technology will improve our operations, lower costs and preserve the environment in which we work, live and play.”

By investing in the new autogas vehicles, SMART will reduce emissions, save money, and extend the life of the vehicle.

The total fuel and maintenance savings is projected to be $1.1 - $1.7 million over the lifetime of the fleet with a return on investment of less than four months.  

Further, SMART anticipates the autogas vehicles will last longer.  This technology has been shown to extend vehicle life due to less wear and tear on the engines by other autogas fleets.

SMART began its search for alternative fuels to meet the goals of the authority:  lower fuel costs and resolve the stringent and complicated emission control issues experienced with the diesel-fueled paratransit buses.  After researching various alternative fuels, propane became the clear winner.  It is affordable and is readily available.  Propane is a byproduct of natural gas processing and is becoming increasingly available in the United States due to the abundant supply of natural gas.   In addition, the cost of building on-site refueling stations at each of its three terminals was determined to be less expensive than other refueling station options. The vehicles and propane stations are grant funded.

“Residents in Southeast Michigan are breathing easier due to SMART’s decision to fuel paratransit buses with propane autogas,” said Todd Mouw, vice president of sales and marketing for ROUSH CleanTech. “Plus, this abundant alternative transportation fuel means reduced operating and ownership costs for the transit agency.”

The Connector, small bus vehicles serve seniors and people with disabilities helping to get them to work, school and medical appointments throughout the region.  It is an advance reservation, curb-to-curb service where riders may travel anywhere within a 10 mile radius of a designated service area. One of the biggest differences customers will notice is a much quieter ride.

Several local businesses participated in the effort to bring the new autogas buses to SMART.  Mobility Transportation is the commercial dealer for Champion the bus manufacturer.  ROUSH equipped the vehicles with the CleanTech propane autogas fuel system. 

Delivery of all 61 SMART Connector autogas vehicles has been on-going since February and to date 14 vehicles have been placed into service.  After receipt of a bus, SMART performs an FTA inspection and then transfer’s equipment from the retiring bus to the new bus.  This includes the removal and installation of the cameras, farebox, radio and automatic vehicle locator (AVL) system equipment.  The full fleet is expected to be in service by the end of July.

*Autogas is the term for propane when used in an on-road engine. 

About SMART: Serving since 1967, SMART is southeast Michigan’s regional public transportation provider, offering convenient, reliable and safe transportation for Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties. SMART’s Fixed Route and small bus services connect people to employment and educational institutions, medical appointments and shopping centers. SMART is supported by federal and state funding, local contributions through a transit property tax millage from opt-in communities and bus fares. For routes and fare information, visit www.smartbus.org.

About ROUSH CleanTech: ROUSH CleanTech, an industry leader of alternative fuel vehicle technology, is a division of ROUSH Enterprises based in Livonia, Mich. ROUSH CleanTech designs, engineers, manufactures and installs propane autogas fuel system technology for light- and medium-duty Ford commercial vehicles, and Type A and Type C Blue Bird school buses. As a Ford QVM-certified alternative fuel vehicle manufacturer, ROUSH CleanTech delivers economical, clean and domestically produced fueling options for fleets across North America. Learn more at or by calling 800.59.ROUSH. 

About Mobility Transportation:  Mobility Transportation Services provides Michigan built buses and commercial passenger vans throughout the U.S. and Guam.  (800)496-4280.  Info@mobilitytrans.com. www.mobilitytrans.com

About Champion Bus:  Champion Bus, Inc., a subsidiary of Allied Specialty Vehicles (ASV), manufactures small and medium sized commercial buses for public transit, paratransit, parking, airport, hotel/resort, assisted living, group tour, church and university markets. Founded in 1953, Champion Bus was the first bus manufacturer to become QVM certified by the Ford Motor Company. All bus models manufactured at the company’s ISO 9001 certified facility in Imlay City, Mich. are Altoona tested, FMVSS/CMVSS compliant and have passed FMVSS No. 220 and ECE r.66 rollover safety tests. Backed by a dependable dealer network in North America, Champion Bus provides quick delivery of replacement parts and responsive customer service and technical support. For more information, visit www.championbus.com.

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