City looking into switching to natural gas vehicles
Feb 23, 2013 (Odessa American - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The Odessa City Council is considering switching some vehicles to compressed natural gas, Doug Hildebrand, city director of equipment services, said.
"I gave them information about compressed natural gas vehicles and the council is talking and going to send a request for proposal for a study to see about the feasibility," Hildebrand said.
"The only thing is that we have to be concerned with is the price to switch, but other than that, I'm comfortable with the idea," District 1 Councilman Roger McNeil said. "If we make that decision, it would be beneficial to the city."
The city currently has about 32 side-load garbage trucks and five street sweepers, Hildebrand said.
Hildebrand said natural gas vehicles usually cost about $35,000 more up-front but have the potential to save money in the long-run.
For example, the city recently purchased a new garbage truck that does not use natural gas for $247,000 and the same vehicle using natural gas would have cost about $282,000, Hildebrand said.
"I've really been pushing that we need to look into this and find out about it because so many other entities and big companies are going in this direction," District 3 Councilwoman Barbara Graff said. "I don't know whether it would cost more. I would imagine initially it would but you have to look at servicing these trucks. Will it be cheaper or more expensive and will the life of the trucks be longer or shorter You've got a whole lot of matrices you have to look at."
If the city chooses to go in that direction, the city would also need to build a fueling station, which would cost about $1.5 million, based on a study done about three years ago, Hildebrand said.
"I don't know when the (new) proposal will be ready but a few years ago we had that estimate and I don't think the price has gone down," Hildebrand said. "But the price of gas fluctuates and there may be grants available or there may not -- that's what the study will look into. We want to find out if it's feasible, how many trucks it would take to be feasible and where infrastructure could be located. There are a lot of questions we need answers to."
Hildebrand said the return on investment would probably be about 15 or 20 years and certain trucks would benefit from using natural gas more than others.
"It suits sweepers and the side-load garbage trucks because it's great for that stop and go use," Hildebrand said. "Natural gas is also cheaper and better for the environment."
The study will also look into possibly using natural gas for city buses and school buses as well, Hildebrand said.
"We haven't looked at doing anything with natural gas," David Morris, Ector County Independent School District director of transportation, said. "We did look one time at propane but at this time we don't have any plans to move in either of those directions. We would have to do a cost analysis on the natural gas and there was some concern we had because a lot of buses go out of town and would have refueling issues."
But Morris said he wouldn't be opposed the idea of using natural gas as long as those issues were addressed.
"I think the more we educate ourselves, the better off we are," Graff said. "I don't want to miss the boat on this, but I'm also very conservative with tax dollars and I want to make sure it's the best for the people."
--Contact Michelle Brownstone on twitter at @OAcitylife or on Facebook at OA Michelle Brownstone or call 432-333-7782.
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