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VENTURA : 4 Methanol-Powered Buses Join Fleet

Four methanol-powered school buses have been added to Ventura Unified School District’s fleet as part of a statewide program to replace old buses with those burning alternative fuels.

The district also received eight high-efficiency diesel-powered buses as part of a California Energy Commission program that uses fines collected by the state from oil companies.

Ventura Unified is one of 11 districts participating in the first phase of the statewide program. It was chosen because of the high levels of ozone in the county, caused largely by automobile exhaust, said school district official Steve Penney.

The school district now has 30 large school buses, including the new ones. The 12 new buses, valued at $125,000 each, were certified by the California Highway Patrol, and 12 others were removed from the fleet, Penney said.

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The school district is selling the retired buses, which are 17 to 32 years old, Penney said. The old buses can no longer be used as public transportation in California but can be bought for personal use, he said.

The 12 new buses, built by Crown Coach Inc. in Chino, are long and modern-looking. The methanol vehicles look no different from the diesel ones.

The difference is in the engine, which must be made of non-corrosive metals such as stainless steel rather than corrosive ones such as copper, said South Coast Area Transit General Manager Peter Drake. Methanol is much more corrosive than diesel or gasoline, Drake said.

Another difference is the size of the fuel tanks in the methanol buses. Methanol fuel burns only about half as efficiently as diesel, so the tanks are twice as large.

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The methanol buses have 200-gallon gas tanks; the diesel buses have 100-gallon tanks, Drake said.

Except for the four methanol-powered buses, the entire fleet is diesel-powered.

South Coast Area Transit is also putting one methanol bus into service for its Ventura-Oxnard route beginning Monday. The bus is on loan from the CEC until the year 2000, Drake said.

The school district and SCAT will fuel their methanol buses at the Arco station at Mills Road and Main Street in Ventura. That gas station and one in Simi Valley are the only two places in the county to buy methanol fuel, Drake said.


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