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C.R. England, a major refrigerated carrier, recently started using five liquid natural gas-fired tractors for its rigs in Southern California. The company has about 4,000 diesel tractors, said Tracy Brown, a company operating director. He said the region was chosen because of the ready availability of dedicated Clean Energy refueling depots. The rigs are being used in the Los Angeles region and on a route to and from Las Vegas, Brown said.
Although he would not reveal what the Salt Lake City-based trucking company paid for the liquid natural gas tractors, he said fuel cost savings could lead to overall savings within a year or two. Depending on diesel prices, the company saves $1.50 to $2 per gallon equivalent on liquid natural gas, he said. At the same time, fuel usage is about the same in equivalent diesel gallons.
Compressed natural gas in Utah
For decades, Questar Corp. has promoted the use of compressed natural gas for passenger vehicles as an abundant and clean-burning alternative to gasoline.
The result is that Utah has one of the best networks of CNG refueling stations in the country.
There are 33 CNG stations in Utah, with the newest recently opened in Kaysville. Weber State University will follow suit next month.
Most stations are owned by Questar Gas and are at retail gasoline outlets throughout the state. The state of Utah owns five stations that are open to the public, and there also are a couple of privately owned stations.
"They are much cleaner, they are much quieter," Brown said of the new tractors. "We haven’t noticed any power reduction from the diesel engines. We’re very pleased with these."
As Clean Energy expands its network of public refueling, "it will be more advantageous to have natural gas vehicles on the road," Brown said.
Honda Motor Co. is expanding sales of its Civic NG. The NG carries a basic sticker price of $26,155, while its gasoline counterpart, the Civic LX, lists at $20,505.
Until this model year, the GX had only been offered as a private vehicle in dealerships in California, Oklahoma, Utah and New York. Sales will be expanded for the next model year to 37 states, mostly to dealers within 20 miles of a public fueling station, said Honda spokeswoman Jessica Fini. For the first time, the car will be advertised nationally and will offer a navigation system and an upgraded audio system.
"We think we are expanding the car at the right time with the expansion in public infrastructure," she said.
Honda’s goal is to boost sales from about 1,000 cars annually to about 2,000, Fini added — still a tiny fraction of the 259,000 gasoline-powered Civics that Honda sold in 2010.
Gene Paulsen, an aerospace engineer from Gilbert, Ariz., and his wife are on their second GX. They bought their first one in 2000, when the state offered tax credits for choosing the natural gas version of the Civic. They sold it earlier this year to a California woman.
He said his wife now commutes in a used GX he bought in 2009. They mostly refuel from a costly home refueling appliance, and have added a second fuel tank to drive longer distances.
"It works really well for us," he said. "But the fueling infrastructure isn’t very good in Arizona. Until you add more fuel capacity to the thing, you’re kind of stuck."
Paulsen said fuel for the GX costs about $1.50 per gallon equivalent, calculating the draw on his home’s gas system, the cost of periodically maintaining his $10,000 refueling pump and the power cost for running the pressure pump to fuel the car.
"We wouldn’t have done this if it was our only vehicle," Paulsen said.
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