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Propane Joins NatGas in Making Transportation News

As NGVAmerica was holding a national meeting in Kansas City and new natural gas fueling stations opened, propane grabbed some attention itself with expansion of its autogas fuel in fleets.

In Los Angeles, Roush CleanTech and Nestle Waters North America kicked off deployment of five propane autogas Ford F-550 trucks at Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water. The vehicles were sold through Kansas-based Midway Ford and outfitted with beverage-carrying bodies by High Point, NC-based Mickey Body. Roush then installed the dedicated-propane systems in Michigan.

Nestle officials like the propane trucks because of their full factory warranty, ease of fueling, low autogas infrastructure cost “and the unexpected benefit of lower electricity costs,” said a Roush spokesperson, noting that the company operates more than 2,000 trucks, fueled primarily by diesel.

Elsewhere, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) honored Chicago’s Alpha Baking for the firm’s 22 propane autogas-fueled, Ford E450-based delivery trucks that handle Alpha’s popular S. Rosen's bread brand. The Alpha-Rosen’s fleet was deployed in 2012 and is managed by Penske.

“Alpha Baking has proven to be an alternative fuel leader in both its community and nationwide," PERC's Tucker Perkins said in announcing the recognition. “The bakery’s investment in propane autogas embodies how fleets across the U.S. can implement green practices in an economic and practical way.”

In the compressed natural gas (CNG) space, Chicago-based Trillium CNG opened new fueling stations in Arizona and Louisiana. In partnership with EVO CNG, a new CNG fueling station was opened in Tolleson, AZ, with four dual-hose dispensers. The EVO Trillium LLC facility features Trillium's proprietary fast-fill hydraulic intensifier compressor.

The partners will work with a couple of major fleet operators in the area that are transforming their fleets to run on natural gas -- Swift Transportation and Sheehy Express. EVO CNG President Danny Cuzick called the collaboration "a pioneering effort."

In Louisiana, Trillium opened the first public access Class-8 accessible CNG fueling station in Monroe, LA. It is located at an E-Z Mart convenience store and will be solely owned and operated by Trillium, a business unit of Integrys Energy Group Inc.

The Louisiana facility has easy access for heavy duty fleets, located just off Interstate Highway 20, a Trillium spokesperson said. The station will serve as the primary CNG fueling spot for Paper Transport Inc.

And CNG is now available at a station on one of the nation’s oldest highways, the heavily-traveled Pennsylvania Turnpike, which crosses the state. The Turnpike Commission installed three fueling dispensers at the turnpike's New Stanton Service Plaza in Westmoreland County east of Pittsburgh. The dispensers -- one for passenger vehicles, one for commercial trucks, and one located outside the plaza gate for use by off-turnpike vehicles -- were installed in cooperation with are Sunoco's Inc. The commission prides itself on offering a range of amenities and choices at its service plazas, ranging from Starbucks coffee to farmers’ markets, free Wi-Fi, pet-walking areas and no-fee ATMs. Several of its plazas offer Ethanol E-85 and electric vehicle recharging.

"CNG is especially popular among commercial truck fleets, and this plaza was selected in part because this stretch has a higher volume of truck traffic than most," said PA Turnpike CEO Mark Compton. "Our average westbound traffic here is more than 17,500 vehicles per day; about a third of that, or 5,300 vehicles a day, is commercial vehicles -- more than double our average, system-wide truck volume of 13%."

The current cost for the CNG at New Stanton is $1.99 per Gasoline Gallon Equivalent (GGE), both for on- and off-Turnpike fueling. The GGE unit for CNG is comparable to one gallon of gasoline for powering vehicles.

Vancouver, BC-based Westport Innovations is launching a "stocking program" it says will see its natural gas vehicles available at select Ford dealerships across the United States, and emphasizing its close relationship with the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, which operates some 450 alternative fuel vehicles and has just ordered 71 new shuttle buses converted to dedicated-CNG operation by Westport.

The “Westport Stocking Program” is scheduled to start early next year. Company officials have said that vehicles will be "readily available" for purchase without having to wait for the vehicle to be built. That is expected to reduce customer wait times by up to 120 days.

Dealers in Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Florida will maintain inventories of Westport WiNG Power System CNG vehicles including Ford F-250 pickups, the F-59 strip chassis, and Ford’s new Transit Van.

“This is a game-changer,” said Westport's Paul Shaffer, vice president and managing director of Dallas operations. The wait time will be cut to as little as a couple of days from placement of order to receipt of vehicle, Shaffer said.

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