Natural gas does a good job heating our homes and broiling our steaks. But fueling our vehicles?
Honda already makes a car that runs on compressed natural gas (CNG). But the real beneficiaries might be transit systems, large companies or school districts that maintain large fleets of buses or trucks, according to a new study by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development
The widening gap between the price and availability of oil and natural gas means that "for some fleets, natural gas absolutely makes economic sense," says Ken Zapinski, the report's primary researcher and author. The best candidates are fleets of heavy-duty vehicles that consume large quantities of fuel and make out-and-back trips during the same day from a central location with a CNG fueling facility, the report says.
Besides price, CNG is cleaner and at sufficient scale, CNG vehicles could help reduce the country's reliance on imported oil. But the upfront cost of CNG vehicles or converting an engine to CNG is very high. And CNG fueling facilities are few.
In Pennsylvania, there are natural gas fueling stations in Pittsburgh, elsewhere in Allegheny County and in Washington County. The Centre Area Transit Authority serving State College uses a fleet of buses fueled exclusively with CNG and the Lower Merion School District is moving in that direction. A raft of state and federal incentives has expired, but state Alternative Fuels Incentive Grants
are still available.
The Conference has launched an interactive website
with several tools to help fleet managers calculate whether natural gas works for them as a transportation fuel.
Source: Ken Zapinski, Allegheny Conference on Community Development
Writer: Elise Vider