Moving to make the majority of its fleet of tractor-trailer trucks run on natural gas, PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay North America division drew national attention Thursday to Beloit, WI, with its newly opened compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station The company also intends to break ground on seven other public CNG stations this year.

Frito-Lay executives have talked about having 75% of the company’s 1,200-vehicle tractor-trailer fleet vehicles running on natural gas, either CNG or liquefied natural gas (LNG), by 2020 (see Daily GPI, April 19, 2012). With the use of electric vehicles and other alternative fuels, the PepsiCo unit is aiming at being “the greenest fleet in America.”

At the station opening, Frito-Lay said it is adding to its CNG-powered fleet, hitting 208 vehicles. “CNG tractors will make up 20% of [our] fleet and will be located at 50% of the production locations,” the company said.

The company intends to build “much-needed natural gas infrastructure for large commercial vehicles,” said Mike O’Connell, senior director for Frito-Lay North America fleet operations. He said Questar Fueling and Trillium CNG were selected as the vendors for providing the fuel and the fueling facilities at the seven new stations.

The Beloit station that opened Wednesday drew funding support from both the state of Wisconsin and U.S. Department of Energy.

Trillium will be building five stations, which are slated for Jonesboro, AK, Orlando, FL, Charlotte, NC, Rosenberg, TX, and Perry, GA. Questar will build two stations at Killingly, CT, and Topeka, KS.

All of the stations will be open to the public. “The seven new fueling stations, along with three others that will be in operation this year, will begin at a total expected annual volume of 2 million gallons and grow to a little more than 8 million gallons in five years,” the spokesperson said.

CNG and LNG both are getting more attention (see Daily GPI, June 18; June 14). Upfitter Impco recently added a GM crew cab truck to its natural gas-gasoline bi-fuel offerings and fuel tank-maker Xperion Energy and Environment introduced a lightweight CNG cylinder for Audi’s first natural gas vehicle.

Impco said its proprietary CNG bi-fuel system will be installed on GM crew cab 2014 model trucks at its production facility in Union City, IN, with some initial shipment notifications targeted by both GM and Impco later this summer, meaning the initial shipping of the trucks could start in the third or fourth quarter.

Crew cab models are expected to increase GM bi-fuel truck conversions by 400 to 500 units this year, said Marco Seimandi, marketing director for Impco parent Fuel Systems Solutions Inc. “Orders for GM’s CNG existing conversions of 610 vans and 911 pickups have exceeded 2,000 units this year,” he said.

For Xperion, Audi has selected it as a “Tier 1” supplier of the X-Store brand lightweight high-pressure CNG cylinders for the A3 G-tron five-door Audi CNG-gasoline bi-fuel “sportback.” The new Audi model is to go on sale by the end of this year.

Xperion said its hybrid composite design saves 70% of the normal fuel tank weight, compared to traditional steel cylinders, while increasing safety and performance.

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