Should Your Fleet Become NGVs?

CNG, LNG, NGV — the acronyms running rampant through the Green Movement are enough to make your head spin. CNG and LNG stand for Compressed Natural Gas and Liquified Natural Gas, respectively, and NGV stands for Natural Gas Vehicle. The question then becomes, should your fleet of sweeper trucks switch over to using CNG or LNG and become a NGV?

Another acronym—this one quite well-known—has been using CNG for years. UPS switched their trucks over to CNG in the late eighties and is about to switch over almost four dozen more to LNG. Companies like AT&T and Verizon are following suit.

The natural gas used in vehicles is the “blue flame” gas used in businesses and homes for things such as heating and cooking. It produces fewer harmful emissions than gasoline and diesel when combusted, and NGVs show an average of 80 percent reduction in those ozone-forming emissions. It also remains odorless and non-corrosive under pressure, giving it a cleaner burn and is produced at relatively low cost.

Natural-gas vehicles use the same basic principles as gasoline-powered vehicles, in that the fuel—natural gas in this case—is mixed with air in the cylinder of a four-stroke engine and then ignited by a spark plug to move a piston up and down. Although there are some differences between natural gas and gasoline in terms of flammability and ignition temperatures, NGVs operate on the same fundamental concepts as gasoline-powered vehicles. However, some modifications are required in places like the fuel storage tank, the engine and the chassis in order to make an NGV work efficiently.

Transit buses, delivery vans and postal vehicles have started switching over to CNG, as have some taxi cabs and yes…sweeper trucks. The city of Columbus, Ohio has taken their Number One offenders in terms of pollution and switched those trucks over to CNG, and some sweeper trucks are included in that mix alongside, dump trucks and trash trucks. By converting 24 vehicles over to CNG, the city reduced emissions by more than 520 metric tons per year, the equivalent of removing 100 passenger vehicles from the road per year. They also expected to eliminate 40,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year with the second wave of NGVs, saving something to the tune of $60- to $90,000 per year in fuel costs. Columbus isn’t the only city converting, either. Cities all across
the country are exploring natural gas options.

It’s no secret that needing to find a solution to the United States’ dependency on foreign oil is a big issue right now, and there is an increasing amount of renewable natural gas that is available from agricultural waste, landfills and sewage plants, in addition to it being extracted from large deposits deep within the earth. Almost all of the natural gas used in the country originates from somewhere on the North American continent, be it imported by pipeline from Canada or from the Rocky Mountains and Southwestern states in the US, making natural gas a viable resource that the US can explore toward gaining more energy independence in the not too distant future.

Another issue that continues to emerge, this time, as a problematic one for switching to CNG, is the lack of refueling facilities for trucks using CNG, making it more of a challenge for passenger vehicles to convert. For big companies like UPS and Verizon, and perhaps your sweeper company, NGVs are proving a great option because they follow repetitive routes or are return-to-base and can refuel there.

Lowering fuel costs and reducing your vehicles’ carbon footprints are issues plaguing, not just business owners, but anyone operating a car or truck these days.
Going the way of CNG with your company vehicles may just be a logical and cost effective option to explore. There are tax incentives and grants available and awarded for changing your fleet over to NGV, and is a great resource to research whether or not going the greener route is the right route for your sweeper trucks.

Story by Jade Acadia