Compressed Natural Gas Project

El Dorado moves toward alternative fuel vehicles

Seven — and counting. That’s the new total of alternative-fuel vehicles (AFVs) currently being used in the city of El Dorado since the city embarked on a multi-year commitment to deploy approximately 25 alternative fuel vehicles through 2018. The City of El Dorado deployed its first dedicated CNG tandem axel dump truck in November of 2013. Shortly after several more CNG vehicles came on line including police and fire department vehicles. The City of El Dorado currently operates more than 100 vehicles in its fleet.

With the increased use of natural gas as a viable transportation fuel, more cities and states are taking action. Programs and plans to replace sanitation and fleet vehicles are being put into operation at the City of El Dorado. Many hours of research was conducted on fuel savings from converting to natural gas. Infrastructure has been created to refuel and retrofit vehicles. As a cleaner, more affordable fuel, the use of natural gas is on the rise across the nation.

“In a short period of time, with the support of the governing body, we’ve invested in the deployment of several advanced technology vehicles that promote cleaner air, use less fuel and help the city lower its operating costs,” said Brad Meyer, Director of Public Works, for the city of El Dorado. “While some may see just another car or truck on the road, we think these vehicles represent the shared values of the communities where we live, work and play.”

Over the next 10 years, the city is committed to replacing gasoline-powered service vehicles with vehicles powered by domestically available CNG. CNG vehicles are expected to emit approximately 25 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than those traditionally powered by gasoline.

"Economic times are tough, but tough times make it even more important to look for efficient solutions," said Meyer. "This is part of a long-term strategy that will help us continue to cut operating costs, reduce emissions in the community we serve and make our city even more sustainable."

2014 marked the grand opening of the City of El Dorado’s CNG fueling station located at the city Public Works Facility. Public Works staff designed the station, storage and fueling posts in order to make sure that costs were kept low. By keeping all of the work in house the city was not only able to reduce the overall cost of the station, but were able to add additional features to the site. The current station site has one fast fill post located by the current gasoline and diesel fuel pumps and six slow fill post located remotely to the fueling station.

CNG is a great source for clean burning, domestically produced fuel. While no fossil fuel can meet the indefinite needs of the planet, most "green energy" technology such as wind, solar and geothermal are not sufficiently developed to meet our growing needs for energy. CNG is a great bridge between the declining oil reserves of the world and the undeveloped renewable energy sources of the future.

No doubt about it, gasoline and diesel fuels are expensive. While currently gasoline prices have been at an all-time low, prices have been steadily ticking up for years, and large spikes in prices come with instability in the Middle East. CNG, on the other hand, is setting records in the USA for domestic production, and prices have risen much slower than gasoline. In general, CNG remains about half the cost of gasoline in some places and over two thirds cheaper in others.

There are many other advantages to switching a fleet to CNG other than just fuel prices some include:

  • Natural Gas is 130 octane so your engine will run much cleaner – prolonging the life of your engine.
  • Fewer harmful emissions than gasoline reducing your carbon footprint.
  • The United States has some of the largest natural gas reserves in the world. By switching to CNG, the USA would decrease its dependency on foreign oil.
  • A bi-fuel system allow you to switch from CNG to Gasoline or vice versa at the push of a button when CNG may not be available in your immediate area.
  • With no carbon, key components on your vehicle, including the catalytic converter, spark plugs, and oil will not need to be serviced as often.
  • In the case of an emergency (fire, etc.), CNG is vented out of the vehicle into the atmosphere safely away from your vehicle.

The City of El Dorado has purchased the first dedicated CNG street sweeper in the state of Kansas and additionally purchased the first dedicated CNG sewer combination truck in 2014. The desire to move away from the ever increasing costs of the tier 4 and future changes to the tier 4 diesel engine was a major factor in the city’s decision. “The dependability of the newer diesel engines could have been a real problem for our customers” Meyer said. “With additional cost for fluids and any down time because of the regenerative cycles the engine goes through will cost more and require the equipment to be down, thus not allowing our crews to provide the needed services by our customers.”

The city anticipates that the payback on conversions done to the existing fleet of vehicles will be between one and three years and two to four on vehicles purchased. In one example, city staff is proposing to change out its fleet of refuse equipment to CNG refuse trucks and the cost to do so will be recovered by the amount of saving of switching to CNG.