In his State of the Union address delivered earlier this year, President Obama, speaking about the important role natural gas has played in his “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, urged Congress to support construction of natural gas fueling stations. NGVAmerica, an organization that represents more than 200 companies, environmental groups, and government organizations interested in the use of natural gas and biomethane as transportation fuels, was quick to applaud his remarks.
“We are pleased to hear the president encourage the use of clean and affordable domestically produced natural gas in our cars and trucks,” said Richard Kolodziej, president of NGVAmerica. “The natural gas vehicle market is growing, but the support of Congress would help accelerate the transition to a transportation fuel that is clean, abundant and domestic.”
Kolodziej went on to point out ways Congress can help accelerate the development of a natural gas fueling infrastructure. On his list were reinstating natural gas fuel and infrastructure tax credits that recently expired. Congress, he added, can also accelerate the transition to natural gas by passing legislation to improve federal excise taxes on the sale of liquefied natural gas and the incremental cost of natural gas trucks.
While legislative issues are considered, fleet managers at the recent NTEA Green Truck Summit and Work Truck Show were able to test-drive a lineup of propane autogas vehicles at a dedicated ride and drive sponsored by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC). Manufacturers and PERC experts also demonstrated the ease of refueling with propane autogas.
For the event, ROUSH CleanTech, a Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier, General Motors, Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. in partnership with CleanFUEL USA, Isuzu Commercial Truck of America Inc., and Icom North America made Class 1 through 6 propane-autogas-fueled trucks and vans available for test drives.
In 2013, noted Michael Taylor, director of propane autogas at PERC, propane autogas sales reached an all-time high as OEMs produced record numbers of dedicated propane vehicles. “Fleet managers can find more state-of-the-art propane vehicles today than at any point in the history of the fuel,” he said.
Events like the PERC test drive can help utility fleet managers determine if propane autogas is a good fit for their operations. While support for natural gas vehicles is clearly on the rise, and manufacturers are ready to supply vehicles, it is up to our legislators to lend a helping hand as well.