Back in 1987, UC Irvine was able to provide transportation for students with only two buses that traveled between Newport Beach and Balboa Island. The Newport Beach/Balboa Island line has been defunct since 2000, but now UCI has a fleet of 15 buses, 65 student drivers and the ability to transport millions of people per year.
On April 17, 2007 in front of the flagpoles, UCI revealed a shuttle bus with 180,000 miles on its odometer that runs exclusively on biodiesel fuel.
Irvine was first city in America to implement curbside recycling. It was also the first city anywhere to ban the use of CFCs and passed the first Green Building ordinance in Orange County. In the tradition of Irvine’s firm history in leading and innovating environment-friendly efforts, UCI will now convert their shuttle system to run on 100 percent biodiesel fuel.
‘The first principle of green-ness is about being resourceful and so rather than spend a lot of money to go buy something like a clean burning bus that would cost around $400 to $500 per bus and still use a carbon-based fuel, we decided to fit our entire shuttle fleet with B100 biodiesel,’ said Wendell Brase, vice chancellor of administrative and business services.
In a collaborative effort with the Associated Students of UCI, Environmental Health and Safety, Fleet Services and Transportation Services, UCI began using a shuttle bus that runs on B100, which it had been testing and studying for the past year and a half.
The shuttle showed reductions in unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, particulate matter and nitrogen emissions when compared to regular diesel fuel.
This new alternative fuel that UCI shuttle buses will now implement is made from soybeans, pulling carbon dioxide out of the air, burning the fuel and then releasing it back into the air, thus producing a neutral effect.
UCI will run their entire shuttle bus fleet on 100 percent biodiesel fuel, a move which is part of a UC-wide effort for campuses to become greener and essentially carbon-free after UC Regents passed their green billings and sustainability policy in 2004.
‘And it gets even greener when [students] can get to main campus in a 100 percent biodiesel shuttle system,’ said Brase.
The shuttles are only ‘essentially’ carbon-free, because 100 percent biodiesel fuel is part of the carbon cycle.
To be 100 percent carbon dioxide-free the soybeans would have to be farmed using biodiesel tractors and be transported to Irvine using biodiesel semis. It’s not quite carbon-neutral but it’s as close as UCI can get for now.
After having UCI Green Campus students search the Web to find out if any other campus has switched to 100 percent biodiesel fuel for their entire shuttle fleet, Brase concluded that, ‘We are the only campus in the United States that we can find. UC Irvine is the first.’
After students voted in support of Measure S, there were a few obstacles to overcome toward a greener campus.
‘We had a dedicated effort, even though we were met with answers of ‘No,’ ‘It’s impossible,’ and ‘You can’t do it,’ because just converting a bus to biodiesel fuel makes the nitrogen emissions go way up,’ said Brase.
With the help of local firm, Clean Air, catalytic converters were installed into the buses and some modifications were made to the fuel-intake side, making the buses run even longer on 100 percent biodiesel fuel.
According to Irvine Mayor Beth Krom, one of the mayors in favor of climate protection in the United States who also was in attendance at the event, UCI’s shuttle system represents the only transit system currently operating here in the city of Irvine that operates 100 percent on biodiesel fuel, a first within a city that already strives to stay on the forefront of environmentally friendly technology.
‘What we do here has a greater impact than what happens nationally and globally, than what happens in Kyoto even though we should be signatories on that agreement