S.L. No. 1 in natural gas availability
If you want to drive a natural gas-powered car, you'd do well to live in Salt Lake City. There are more places to fuel up in Salt Lake than in any other city in the nation.Recently, when the Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition held its annual conference in Salt Lake, Ford Motor Company named Utah's capital as one of six cities in which it will be aggressively trying to expand the market for natural gas vehicles.
The other five cities are larger: Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and New York. Salt Lake City was chosen, said Ford spokeswoman Beth Ardisana, because, "There are 46 private and public refueling stations in Salt Lake, more than in any other city in America."
And there was yet another honor given to the city at the same conference, according to Beverly Miller, the coordinator of Salt Lake Clean Cities. The Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition named a local company, Flower Patch, Inc., as a winner of an annual achievement award for advancing the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel.
The Flower Patch fleet manager, Parrish Gordon, is an active member of the Salt Lake Clean Cities project, says Miller. He helped his company convert their entire fleet of delivery vans to operate on natural gas. Last year, Flower Patch, Inc., saved more than $24,500 in fuel and reduced harmful emissions by 2.5 tons, according to Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition figures.
There were five annual achievement awards given. Other winners included the Checker Cab Company of Atlanta, Ga; Ford Motor Company for being the largest manufacturer of natural gas vehicles and for continuing to expand the selection of vehicles every year; Freightliner, a designer and manufacturer of natural gas fuel systems; and Richard Kassel, attorney for the Natural Gas Resources Defense Council, who secured an agreement for the nation's largest natural gas transit program - adding 500 clean-fuel buses to the New York system.
The Salt Lake Clean Cities project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and operates out of the Salt Lake mayor's office. According to Miller, the Clean Cities project is, "doggedly fuel-neutral." Which means her office promotes a variety of alternative fuels, including electricity and propane, as well as natural gas.
However, because of the recent meeting of the Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition, Miller has lately found herself talking a lot about that particular fuel.
Natural gas vehicles are low emission vehicles, Miller explains. Like other low-emission vehicles, they run anywhere from 75 to 90 percent cleaner than regular vans, cars or trucks. Miller said, "People see these numbers and they get excited." She sees the industry about to make a giant leap.
The Salt Lake Clean Cities program began in 1994. There are currently 60 companies and government groups participating. Twenty of those 60 groups have joined the project within the last three months, Miller says.
Through the Clean Cities project, Miller says, fleet managers are learning about alternative fuels "not just because it is the right thing to do" for the valley's air, but also because, once the initial investment is made, they save on fuel costs.
She says she's not sure what Ford's new marketing program will mean to the city. She does know there will be two automotive experts available to consult with Clean Cities participants and local fleet managers.
There is a new concern on the part of those who have modified their cars and vans to run on alternative fuels. The problem is this: Emissions are low at first, but tend to increase over time. There is no similar problem with vehicles that are manufactured to run on alternative fuels, Miller says. Just the ones that are modified.
It may be that modified cars need better tuneups. It may be that local mechanics can't work on the modified engines, she says. She's hoping that Ford and Clean Cities together can advise fleet managers on where to take their vehicles for tune-ups or how to train their own mechanics to do the job.
If the Clean Cities project is "fuel neutral" it is also "car manufacturer neutral." Miller says she looks forward to working with other manufacturers in addition to Ford. But so far there aren't any. In 1996, more than 90 percent of the alternative fuel vehicles sold in the U.S. were Fords.
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