The practice of running U.S. business fleet vehicles on compressed natural gas (CNG) continues to gain momentum as evidenced by the deals being announced on almost a weekly basis. The latest involves Clean Energy Fuels Corp. subsidiary BAF, which has received an order from Verizon to convert 501 new Ford E-250 Series vans to CNG power.

The vehicles, which are scheduled for deployment later this year, will be equipped with the BAF proprietary clean-air certified CalComp System. BAF said natural gas produces up to 30% lower greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline in light-and medium-duty vehicles.

“Verizon’s deployment of natural gas-fueled vehicles sets a powerful example for fleet operators across America to emulate. Use of natural gas fuel for fleets is a trend that is rapidly gaining momentum in many U.S. industry sectors,” said John Bacon, president of BAF. “Because it is abundant and renewable, cleaner and cheaper than gasoline or diesel fuel, natural gas can carry us forward to a sustainable future.”

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, approximately 98% of the natural gas consumed in the United States is sourced in North America, and domestic supplies are projected to last 120 years, based on current consumption levels. In addition, natural gas fuel costs less per gallon equivalent than gasoline.

Companies, municipalities and state governments over the last year have been transforming vehicle fleets to run on natural gas. In the last month alone there have been a number of deals inked. During the first week of April, Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell awarded more than $3.8 million in grants for state CNG conversions and infrastructure (see Daily GPI, April 8). A week later two national heavy-duty truck fleet operators, a local government association and a leading natural gas transportation fueling infrastructure company announced plans to add 426 new CNG and liquefied natural gas (LNG) heavy-duty vehicles in Southern California and the Pacific Northwest (see Daily GPI, April 13). Last week, Clean Energy, under a $8.4 million contract, agreed to rehabilitate four CNG bus fueling sites for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LAMTA), the largest public transportation system in car-laden Southern California (see Daily GPI, April 14). LAMTA operates 2,506 CNG-powered buses, more than 95% of its fleet.

Rich Kolodziej, president of NGVAmerica, believes the transportation industry will continue to see these types of changes. While there are a number of options, including electric power for light-duty vehicles, there is only one viable option to replacing diesel fuel in heavy-duty fleet vehicles such as buses, trucks and construction equipment, and that is natural gas, Kolodziej told NGI.

Kolodziej will be a presenter on the topic of natural gas vehicles at GasMart 2010, the annual forum and network center for the natural gas industry and its customers, coming up May 10-12 in Chicago. For more information on the program visit the GasMart 2010 website.

BAF said the CNG vehicle up-fits for Verizon will be completed at Steelweld Equipment Co. in Hemet, CA, and Temple, TX; and at North American Equipment Upfitters in Hooksett, NH.

Through its October 2009 acquisition of BAF (see Daily GPI, Sept. 28, 2009), Clean Energy provides natural gas vehicle systems and conversions for the light to medium-duty fleet sector.

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