General Motors (GM) this month has unveiled what it calls the industry’s only fully integrated compressed natural gas (CNG) cargo van as the lead vehicle in what it hopes will be a parade of options for fleet operators seeking to lower their carbon footprint.

Separately, the California Energy Commission (CEC) and Southern California Edison Co. (SCE) rolled out announcements and demonstration vehicles in anticipation of stepped up efforts with the major auto manufactures to get more electric vehicles (EV) on the road throughout California and the West before the end of this year. The CEC announced that an EV infrastructure company, EV Connect, and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) plan to conduct a pilot program to assess the integration of plug-in EVs (PEV) into the transportation network.

SCE, in conjunction with GM’s Chevrolet Volt PEV, held a demonstration ride program at its Rosemead, CA, headquarters last Monday. SCE’s Ed Kjaer, director of PEV readiness, confirmed that he thinks natural gas will dominate the medium- and heavy-duty vehicle space while EVs will be the lead alternative fuel vehicles in the passenger car market for both fleets and individuals. Kjaer has been driving an early version of a Toyota PEV provided by the utility for the past decade.

In the CNG sector, GM displayed its Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana CNG vans, along with other vehicles in the automaker’s “fuel-efficient” group, at the Green Fleet Conference Monday and Tuesday in San Diego. GM officials touted their CNG vans as allowing fleet operators to “meet their business objectives and make their transportation more sustainable.”

The CNG vans meet all federal Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board emission certification requirements, said May Beth Stanek, GM’s director of federal environmental and energy regulatory affairs. “Natural gas is an abundant and clean alternative fuel, ” Stanek said. “Based on today’s CNG fuel rates and anticipated payback periods, fleet investment in CNG can be quite affordable.”

For gas, fleet operators represent a tempting market. GM said the latest estimates conclude that more than 10.8 million fleet vehicles are on the road in the United States currently.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles pilot project will seek to add more understanding about the viability of a PEV-transit network and establish best practices that optimize the consumer experience while reducing the carbon footprint of Los Angeles County. The idea is to encourage drivers to use the Metro public transit system and charge PEVs at transit system lots while doing so, according to one of the five LA County elected supervisors, Don Knabe.

“At Metro we demonstrate best practice in sustainability with more than 2,500 clean-air buses along with a commitment in building all new transit facilities to LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] standards,” Knabe said.

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