Joburg trial highlights carbon advantages of ethanol-fuelled bus

29th October 2010 By: Petronel Smit

The first local ethanol-driven bus, which forms part of the City of Johannesburg’s initiative to reduce air pollution in the city, was tested during October. 
The bus consumes 80 /100 km and produces only 125 g of carbon dioxide (CO2) for every kilometre.

An equivalent diesel bus will use about 
48 /100 km, but will produce about 1 285 g of CO2 for every kilometre.

Manufacturer of trucks, buses and engines Scania and Johannesburg’s Metrobus company 
have been working closely to implement a reduction in carbon emissions in the city and invited fleet management company Mix Telematics, earlier this year, to become 
involved in the ethanol-driven bus trial. Mix Telematics’ technology monitors and adjusts driver behaviour and initiates effective routing to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

The company’s FM Communicator unit is used globally and can monitor fuel consumption to calculate CO2 emissions. Mix Telematics original-equipment manufacturer
key account manager John Anderson says that the system clearly shows when a vehicle is being driven over the speed limit, monitors driver behaviour, records the hours drivers 
spend behind the wheel and advises when maintenance work is needed.

“Companies that adopt this fleet management technology are able to accurately measure and report on their CO2 emissions. By reducing fuel consumption, CO2 emissions are reduced, thereby optimising efficiency for companies like Metrobus,” he says.

It can also be used to assess and plan routes to ensure optimum fuel efficiencies and can advise bus owners which buses are best for specific routes, such as single, double or flexible dual-carriage buses.

“The system links directly to the on-board computer, which allows us to monitor and report on all aspects of the vehicle. We also work closely with the fleet owners [regarding driver training] to ensure vehicles are used 
efficiently. This significantly impacts on the fuel efficiency and the CO2 output of vehicles,” 
Anderson notes.

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), an initiative aimed at gathering information on what companies are doing globally to combat climate change, is driving global business to take voluntary action. Analysts predict that, in future, businesses will be legally obliged to comply with CDP scorecard ratings by monitoring and publicly reporting on their CO2 emissions.

Anderson believes that businesses are think-
ing ahead and working on reducing their environmental impact before it becomes mandatory. 
“Companies that adopt ecofriendly policies now will gain the competitive advantage in the future, and will have built up goodwill in the market once government and industry regulations are officially put in place,” he asserts.

The challenge that many businesses face is how this fuel adjustment will affect their 
bottom line. Anderson says that, while it is slightly more expensive to replace diesel with ethanol, the savings will become evident in the long run, as businesses will pay less environ-
mental tax.

Meanwhile, the production of ethanol is also creating job opportunities globally. Anderson points out that, for every bus that runs on
ethanol fuel, two to three jobs are created in rural areas. Ethanol, therefore, not only holds the advantage of lowering CO2 emissions, but can also boost employment.

Silversands Ethanol produces ethanol fuel from sugar beet at a plant in Lichtenburg, in the North West province. Anderson asserts 
that the partnership between Scania, Silver-sands Ethanol, Metrobus and Mix Telematics has resulted in the first feasible biofuels project in South Africa.