Mercedes-Benz has launched the Citaro NGT bus, which runs on natural gas, as an interim solution for curbing emissions. Picture: SUPPLIED
Mercedes-Benz has launched the Citaro NGT bus, which runs on natural gas, as an interim solution for curbing emissions. Picture: SUPPLIED

Mercedes-Benz is busy rolling out its EQ electric car programme, but in the meantime it is exploring alternative energy sources that are cleaner and more efficient than fossil fuels.

Natural gas is very much in the mix of those alternative fuels, as seen with the company’s newest product, the Mercedes‑Benz Citaro NGT hybrid bus with natural-gas drive.

The switch over to electric drive systems in urban buses is complex and requires extensive preparation. Thus, Mercedes-Benz has implemented this environmentally friendly technology as an intermediate option.

Gas engines are credited with virtually almost no particulate matter and much lower nitrogen oxide emissions than diesel. When used in conjunction with biogas or bio natural gas, the Citaro NGT hybrid is almost CO₂ neutral, says Mercedes-Benz.

Biogas can be upgraded to a quality similar to fossil-based natural gas for use in the transport sector, and its cleaner properties make it attractive as an alternative to petrol or diesel.

It can be cultivated from matter such as sewage, food and organic waste created by businesses such as breweries and restaurants. A study conducted in 2011 also showed that gas from waste biomass, including agricultural waste, had the potential to meet the natural gas needs of 50% of US households.

Another plus point is its ability to be produced and distributed via existing gas grids and systems that require no extra capital outlay to the end user.

The German towns of Augsburg and Oldenburg have opted to draft six new Citaro NGT hybrid buses into their public utilities fleets. The Oldenburg bus will be running on bio natural gas.

Demand for the Citaro around Europe is high in areas such as France and Spain. The Slovenian capital of Ljubljana has ordered 17 Citaro NGT hybrid buses, added Mercedes-Benz.