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Fleet Briefing: Nissan Leaf Torture Test, Fossil Fuel ‘Greener’ than Biofuel, Oil Price Predictions

Automotive manufacturer BYD has received an order for what it says will be the world’s largest all-electric bus fleet. The buses will serve the global collegiate athletic competition the International Universiade Games in Shenzhen, China this summer. Post-games, the buses will be incorporated into Shenzhen’s city bus fleet.

The trend toward cleaner transit buses will continue over the next several years, according to a recent report from Pike Research. The cleantech market intelligence firm forecasts that by 2015 alternative fuel vehicles will represent more than 50 percent of the 64,000 total transit buses that will be delivered worldwide during that year, up from 28% of total bus deliveries in 2010.

As airlines move toward the use of biofuels, researchers at MIT say the industry may want to make sure it has examined the complete carbon footprint before making an all-out push to use the these fuels. They say that when a biofuel’s origins are factored in — for example, taking into account whether the fuel is made from palm oil grown in a clear-cut rainforest — conventional fossil fuels may sometimes be the “greener” choice.

Sixty-four percent of energy company executives expect crude oil prices to exceed $121 per barrel by year-end, according to this year’s Annual Energy Survey by auditing firm KPMG. Some 35 percent of the 500 executives surveyed said their company would increase research and development investment in alternative energy projects in 2011, up from 15 percent in KPMG’s 2010 survey.

Echoing the KPMG survey, a poll conducted by GE Fleet Capital Services found corporate fleet managers rate higher and more volatile fuel prices as their top concern in 2011. Some 29 percent said the recent spike in fuel prices has made this issue their top concern, up from 12 percent a year ago. And 28 percent said they plan to incorporate electric vehicles into their fleets within the next 12 months.

Energy company Atlanta Gas Light has filed a plan with the Georgia Public Service Commission to build a network of compressed natural gas fueling stations in the state over the next five years. The stations are planned for the metropolitan Atlanta region and along major transportation corridors in the state. The plan also includes low-cost equipment leasing options for home fueling stations.  Natural gas retail prices are over a third less than that of petroleum – $2.19 per gallon of gas equivalent – as currently posted at Georgia retailers, according to the energy company.

And finally, staff at automotive news service Edmunds Insideline.com have tested the endurance of an electric powered Nissan Leaf, by driving the car on a full charge until it stopped dead. The green vehicle lasted 132 miles on an oval track before running out of juice.

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