In making his case for congressional action on natural gas use in transportation, the CEO of a California-based gas transportation fueling company recently told a House subcommittee that the added cost for heavy-duty natural gas-powered trucks is coming down and the NAT GAS Act (HR 1380) will help further reduce those added costs.

Clean Energy Fuels Corp. CEO Andrew Littlefair touted the proposed stimulus for gas in transportation as a potential boost for the sagging economy with the prospect for creating up to 400,000 new jobs. Littlefair focused on the nation’s eight million heavy-duty (Class 5 through 8) trucks operating in the United States, most running on diesel, in appearing before the Ways and Means Committee’s oversight subcommittee.

With his Seal Beach, CA-based firm as a major supplier of compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) along with refueling infrastructure, Littlefair attempted to make the case for gas use in transportation carrying what he called “wide ranging” benefits that are “vital to America’s national interest.” There are job creation, security and environmental benefits, he said.

Separately, Ford Motor Co. said another 35 of its CNG-powered Transit Connect Taxis were put in service in New England as Metro Taxi in West Haven, CT, added the vehicles to its fleet as part of an effort to lower its reliance on gasoline and reduce its overall greenhouse gas emissions. Littlefair’s Clean Energy firm owns and operates the CNG fueling station in West Haven, one of 250 it operates nationwide.

In this case CNG is used in traditional gasoline internal combustion engines that are modified to operate on natural gas by Dallas-based BAF Technologies, a Clean Energy subsidiary. BAF has been certified by Ford to convert standard Transit Connect Taxis to run on CNG.

In addition, Vancouver, BC-based Westport Innovations Inc. said it has struck a deal with Ford to provide natural gas-powered engine technologies for some of the automaker’s pickup truck models starting in the first half of 2012. A provider of CNG and LNG engine technologies, Westport said the natural gas-powered systems will be available in Ford F-250 and F-350 super-duty pickup trucks. The vehicles will also be able to run on gasoline.

Westport said its new bifuel gas-powered system, called WiNG, will be installed in the two Ford truck models beginning next spring. The pickup trucks will have Ford’s new 6.2-liter “hardened” engine platform. WiNG is an integrated bifuel system for both passenger and commercial vehicles, emphasizing fleet operators.

In Washington, DC, at the subcommittee meeting, Littlefair concentrated on medium- and heavy-duty trucks burning imported diesel fuel to emphasize the difference the NAT GAS law could make. “Unlike battery and hydrogen technologies which are works in progress, natural gas is a proven vehicle fuel,” he told the subcommittee, emphasizing that globally there are 13.2 million natural gas vehicles operating, but only about 110,00 in the United States.

The medium- and heavy-duty trucks suck up more than 35 billion gallons of fuel annually, most of which could be using cheaper, domestically produced natural gas, said Littlefair, arguing that they could be running on CNG and LNG.

For a typical $125,000 tractor or drayage truck, ones built to run on natural gas cost $35,000-40,000 more, but that can be driven down with the help of HR 1380, Littlefair said. Three years ago the incremental cost for the natural gas capability added $60,000 to $100,000 to the trucks’ cost, he said.

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