The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Board of Directors approved a study on Thursday to determine which type of Metrobus is the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

WMATA is partnering with the West Virginia University Research Corporation to draft an $185,000 research contract. The study will be funded by the East Coast Hybrid Consortium, a group comprised of public and private stakeholders that promotes alternative fuel technologies.

Currently, WMATA runs buses with four different types of fuel: compressed natural gas, clean diesel, diesel-electric hybrid and regular diesel. The researchers will conduct emissions testing and collect data on vehicle performance and operating costs to compare the emission outputs of each fuel type.

“West Virginia University and Metro will perform emissions testing, collect operations data, and gather in-service vehicle performance and operating cost information for a comparison between Metrobuses operating with diesel fuel, hybrid-electric propulsion systems, compressed natural gas and clean-diesel biofuels,” a WMATA press release said. “The evaluation will help Metro determine which fuel and propulsion system provides the cleanest fuel option and most cost-effective way to power the transit agency’s bus fleet in the future.”

Diesel is currently the most common type of fuel used by WMATA. Over 800 of 1,500 Metrobuses run on diesel fuel; 117 run on clean diesel and 50 are diesel-electric hybrids.

CNG, a fossil fuel substitute for diesel that produces fewer greenhouse gases during combustion, powers 460 buses, according to WMATA’s Web site.

Kristin Ng (COL ’11), president of Eco-Action at Georgetown, supports the WMATA initiative to use cleaner fuels.

“[W]e definitely encourage people to take buses regardless, so switching to buses with fewer emissions is even better, and hopefully people will find (a little) more of a reason to take the Metro buses,” Ng said in an e-mail.

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