Natural Gas Now Powering Up Big Trucks

Earlier this month, California-based Clean Energy Fuels Corp. announced the opening of the first liquefied natural gas filling station in Jacksonville, Florida. Also announced on the same day was the opening of America's Natural Gas Highway stations in Pontoon Beach, Illinois, and in Fontana, California. These stations have been erected to serve heavy-duty, natural gas powered trucks.

Representatives from both UPS and Raven Transport were on hand to speak at the Florida opening.

Natural gas has become an attractive option for high-horsepower trucks, because it is less expensive (by up to $1.50/gal), cleaner (23% less GHG emissions), and offers better price stability when compared with conventional diesel. It's also better for the health of drivers and the communities in which they operate. Given the high level of natural gas availability in the US at this time, it also offers the opportunity to reduce dependence on imported oil. Trucking applications include port drayage, bulk hauling, LTL, intermodal, goods movement, as well as local pickup and delivery. Natural gas-fueled trucks are hauling loads up to 80,000 lbs. GVW.

Clean Energy will be constructing both CNG and LNG stations as part of America's Natural Gas Highway. The stations will be located in both Pilot and Flying J truck stop facilities.

Besides the long haul truckers, many cities are switching their bus fleets over to natural gas for the same reasons. Dallas' DART system, for example, is planning to convert their entire fleet to natural gas, purchasing 580 new compressed natural gas (CNG) buses in the process. Clean Energy is providing the fuel via four CNG stations that were incorporated into the DART network in 2012. Those buses are projected to use some 7 million equivalent gallons of fuel each year.

Natural gas is also being used to power garbage trucks. Smithtown, NY became the first community on the East Coast, back in 2006, to require that all refuse and recycling trucks operating there be run on natural gas. Clean Energy now provides refueling services to the 25 vehicles that operate there, using the CNG equivalent of 250,000 gallons of gasoline each year. Other towns following suit include: Albany, OR, Mesa, AZ, Minneapolis, MN, and too many others to count. In fact, there are now 71 natural gas refueling stations in the metro NYC area alone

Mack Trucks, one of the leading providers of trash trucks, built more CNG powered trash trucks last year than they did in the period from 1998-2005 when natural gas power first arrived on the scene. These trucks can run on either CNG or LNG without modification.

McNeilus, the largest manufacturer of trash and cement trucks says that 30% of their production right now is going into natural gas powered models.

This trend, towards a cleaner and more economical infrastructure underscores the opportunity for dozens of other communities. Perhaps natural gas will begin to find its way into passenger cars, here, as well, as diesel has done so successfully in Europe.