Natural Gas – Conversions, Vehicles and Technology

Kansas City is Kicking the Petroleum Habit

January 2014, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Julie Sutor, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Kansas City Regional Clean Cities Coalition Co-coordinator Aaron Brown fills up the Metropolitan Energy Center’s compressed natural gas (CNG) van.
Kansas City Regional Clean Cities Coalition Co-coordinator Aaron Brown fills up the Metropolitan Energy Center’s compressed natural gas (CNG) van.

Those with a taste for top-notch barbecue know that Kansas City, Mo., is hallowed ground. But, this Heartland town has a lot more going for it than smoky meats and spicy sauces — it’s gaining a reputation as a hotbed for the deployment of alternative fuels.

In 2012, fleets and other transportation stakeholders in the greater Kansas City region displaced more than 4.5 million gallons of petroleum and averted nearly 35,000 tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the adoption of fuels such as natural gas, propane autogas, and electricity, and the implementation of fuel-saving efficiency measures.

Getting a Helping Hand

Much of this progress is taking place with the help of the Kansas City Regional Clean Cities Coalition (KCRCCC), which has offered technical expertise, financial assistance, training, and networking opportunities to its stakeholder fleets since 1998.

“The best part of this work is being out in the field talking with fleet managers, learning about the challenges they’re having, and figuring out how to work through them,” KCRCCC Coordinator Kelly Gilbert said.

A hybrid-electric bucket truck in the City of Wichita’s fleet.

A hybrid-electric bucket truck in the City of Wichita’s fleet.

Among those who have seized on the benefits of alternative fuels is Kansas City, which operates about 300 vehicles that run on compressed natural gas (CNG); approximately 15 percent of its fleet. The City fleet first focused its CNG deployment efforts in the light-duty arena, but, in recent years, it has begun replacing heavy-duty diesel trucks with natural gas trucks to increase fuel cost savings.

One of the biggest boosts to the region’s green fleet operations was the Midwest Region Alternative Fuels Project, which used American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to help deploy 370 alternative-fuel vehicles in Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska. The project also supported the development of 30 alternative-fuel stations that serve hundreds more vehicles fueled by CNG, electricity, biodiesel, and E-85.

“This project did exactly what it was supposed to do in terms of seeding the market with new stations,” Gilbert said. “Now private companies see a clear business case for installing new stations without any help from taxpayers. ”

Get Involved with Clean Cities

Through the work of nearly 100 local coalitions, Clean Cities advances the nation’s economic, environmental, and energy security by reducing petroleum use in transportation. Clean Cities is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy. Find out more at www.cleancities.energy.gov.

For more information about KCRCCC and its parent organization, Metropolitan Energy Center, e-mail Kelly Gilbert at [email protected] or visit www.metroenergy.org/kccleancities.aspx.

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