WHEELING - With the price of gasoline near the $4 per gallon mark, it may be time to consider powering vehicles with compressed natural gas (CNG), which is now about $2.10 per gallon on an energy equivalent comparison.
Amid increased rates of drilling and fracking in the Upper Ohio Valley, the local supply of natural gas is increasing - particularly for those residents fortunate enough to have wells on their property in the Marcellus and Utica shale regions.
One customer of Jim Robinson Ford-Lincoln Inc. at The Highlands recently purchased a Ford truck featuring the new Westport WiNG Power System, applied by Plymouth, Mich.-based Westport.
John F. Howell, senior director of Marketing for Westport, said Ford F-Series trucks with the bi-fuel Westport system have undergone the same rigorous testing for safety and durability required for all Ford products.
Starting at $9,500 per conversion, the WiNG system offers a combined fuel range of 650-750 miles. The system is available on all Ford Super Duty trim levels, cab configurations, drivetrain configurations and bed sizes.
In West Virginia, residents may also apply for the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Tax Credit, which offers credits of up to $7,500 for converting passenger vehicles and up to $25,000 for industrial vehicles over 26,000 pounds.
One drawback to converting vehicles to run on CNG is that some customers do not have easy access to the fuel. However, IGS Energy, Chesapeake Energy and General Electric are trying to change this.
Recently, IGS announced plans to operate a $10 million network of compressed natural gas fueling stations for vehicles along Interstate 79 from Charleston to Mount Morris, Pa. Moreover, Chesapeake and GE have developed a system that can tap natural gas pipelines to fill vehicle fuel tanks. The CNG in a Box system transforms natural gas from a pipeline into CNG on-site at a traditional automotive fueling station or industrial location.
Those driving CNG-powered vehicles can then refill their tanks using a dispenser with the same look and feel as a traditional diesel or gasoline dispenser. CNG in a Box is a plug-and-play on-site fueling solution that comes with everything retailers need, GE and Chesapeake officials said. The system features an 8 foot x 20 foot container.
A vehicle using CNG can reduce annual fuel costs up to 40 percent, Chesapeake and GE officials said, noting this represents savings totaling as much as $1,500 per fleet vehicle per year.
Some school buses in Los Angeles are now using CNG in place of gasoline, while some of California's garbage truck fleets are now using the natural gas. Also, Atlanta and Arlington, Va. are now running some public buses on natural gas.