New fueling technology expands range of NGVs

Research teams at the Gas Technology Institute (GTI) are working to lower the costs of adoption of natural gas vehicles (NGVs) and their fueling infrastructure, particularly first-cost entry. One key example of these initiatives is a new mobile fueling technology developed by the organization, recently debuted at the 2012 Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

The FuelMule is a mobile fast-fill compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station that gives NGV fleets fueling capability at their home base—or anywhere—without the need to build a fueling station. GTI has worked with Ultimate CNG to bring the technology to fruition and help reduce barriers to market entry for NGVs.

“This technology helps to overcome the capital investment issues associated with building new fueling infrastructure,” says Tony Lindsay, R&D director at GTI. “In the past, there haven’t been enough NGVs to justify the high investment in building many fueling stations, and there are too few stations to allow widespread growth and adoption of NGVs in various fleets. This new innovation can work to balance things out with its ability to bring fueling capability to where it’s most needed.”

Dennis Pick, president of Ultimate CNG noted, “With FuelMule CNG fueling services, no longer must fleets choose between the convenience of diesel and clean natural gas. They can have access to CNG with no capital investment required and no fueling infrastructure maintenance.”

America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) provided 12 NGV shuttle buses used at the national political conventions to give delegates and guests a first-hand experience with these alternative-fueled vehicles.

Regina Hopper, ANGA’s president and CEO, added, “Our message in Tampa, Charlotte, and beyond is that this is an extraordinary opportunity for our nation, and it’s time to get on board with this American fuel choice. Companies and local leaders across the country are embracing natural gas as a fuel choice and calling for more vehicle options and filling stations to help drive greater use.”

In Tampa, NGV buses transported convention participants to several hotels and local attractions. Local utility TECO Peoples Gas partnered with Ultimate CNG to provide CNG fuel for the buses. As an important demonstration of the technology’s capabilities, the FuelMule made the 1,372-mile drive from Janesville, Wisconsin, to Tampa, Florida, without having to stop once for fuel—it fueled itself.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, Piedmont Natural Gas Company helped to keep the buses rolling for the Democratic Convention, with the FuelMule mobile fueling station quietly working in the background to keep things moving along.

CNG fuel provides significant cost savings over diesel-fueled vehicles—it costs about $1.69 less per gallon equivalent compared to diesel—and offers fleets a domestic fuel choice that is cleaner for the environment. The FuelMule fast-fill CNG can service an entire fleet quickly and easily, saving significant time and money.

The FuelMule station is equipped with a reciprocating gas compressor capable of dispensing eight diesel gallon equivalent (DGE) per minute at a pressure of 3,600 pounds per square inch (psi). The FuelMule’s payload area is fitted with light-weight, carbon composite tanks providing on-board storage capacity of 700 DGE. One of the novel aspects of the system is that the CNG compressor is driven by the same dedicated natural gas engine under the hood of the truck that is used to motor the vehicle down the road. It can fuel 35 to 50 medium to heavy-duty vehicles, and separate electronic metering allows filling two vehicles simultaneously. Loading of the FuelMule can take as little as two hours, also utilizing the on-board compressor.

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