Natural Gas – Conversions, Vehicles and Technology

Las Vegas Fleet is 90 Percent Green

May 2009, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Lauren Fletcher - Also by this author

The City of Las Vegas operates a 1,500-vehicle fleet, 90 percent of which — 1,350 vehicles — runs on alternative-fuels.

According to Dan Hyde, fleet and transportation services manager, City of Las Vegas, the City utilizes a large alternative-fuel fleet to prove the viability of various alternative fuels.

Currently, Las Vegas fleet vehicles are powered by a diverse mixture of alternative fuels, including:

• Hybrids.
• Reformulated gasoline, 10 percent by weight, that also meets California specs for cleaner-burning gasoline.
• Biodiesel (B-20).
• Compressed natural gas (CNG).
• Hydrogen.
• Hydrogen-enriched compressed natural gas.

“By using a ‘collage’ of alternative fuels, Las Vegas has been able to clearly demonstrate the efficiencies of their use on a daily and rigorous basis, which proves the various fuels’ reliability to a skeptical public,” said Hyde. “The fact we have embraced these alternative fuels since 1993 demonstrates conclusively the sustainability of the various types of technologies.”

Driver Acceptance a Challenge

Over 2009, the City will phase biodiesel into all fire apparatus and emergency medical response (EMS) paramedic vehicles.

“Once fully implemented, the City’s fleet will be operating 100 percent on some type of alternative fuel. Also, we are looking at deploying plug-in hybrid vehicles as they become available from the manufacturers,” said Hyde.

He noted the most difficult challenge in switching a large portion of the City’s fleet to alternative-fuels has been driver acceptance.

“There was a great deal of fear associated with hydrogen and CNG. Many thought they were sitting on a ‘bomb’ and that they would explode,” explained Hyde. “Since we built the world’s first hydrogen energy station in 2002 — where the entire hydrogen fueling site operated independently of the electrical power grid due to a state-of-the-art, standalone 50Kw fuel cell — there was a great deal of resistance from the City’s Fire Marshall, building inspectors, and electrical engineers to authorize its construction, especially since there were no building codes associated with hydrogen as a transportation fuel at the time.”

To build the site took three years, including 30 months involved with permitting the site.

Building on the Las Vegas Model

The City of Las Vegas fleet operations advises public sector fleets to use the Las Vegas experience as a reference in switching to alternative fuels.

“We have already done the hard part in proving alternative fuels work, and we know how to get a hydrogen facility built,” said Hyde. “Using us will bypass delays like those we encountered because we can tell fleets how to avoid the mistakes we made.”

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