Natural Gas – Conversions, Vehicles and Technology

Coachella Valley Tunes in & Turns up Alternative-Fuel Usage

Most famous for its rock and roll festival, California’s Coachella Valley is also building its reputation as an alt-fuel fleet hot spot.

September 2014, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Kendall Septon

This 24-hour CNG fueling station located in Thousand Palms, Calif., is part of a network of seven CNG stations throughout the Coachella Valley region available to the general public. Photo via Sunline Transit Agency
This 24-hour CNG fueling station located in Thousand Palms, Calif., is part of a network of seven CNG stations throughout the Coachella Valley region available to the general public. Photo via Sunline Transit Agency

Situated some 100 miles east of Los Angeles, a long string of California desert cities collectively form what is known as the Coachella Valley. The region is best known for its namesake music festival, and thanks to the efforts of the Clean Cities Coachella Valley Region (C3VR) coalition, founded in 1996, the area has also built an impressive reputation for helping local fleets reduce petroleum use and vehicle emissions.

With the help of C3VR, some of the Coachella Valley’s largest fleets —including those operated by local transit provider, SunLine — have been fully converted to use natural gas. In 2013 alone, C3VR members displaced more than 2.9 million gallons of petroleum and averted 6,443 tons of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

Leading the Way
A decade ago, SunLine became the first public transit agency in the nation to fully convert its diesel fleets to use 100 percent compressed natural gas (CNG), thanks, in large part, to the Coalition’s efforts. Hydrogen vehicles have also been tested and are currently included in SunLine’s daily fleet service.

C3VR members have also met the challenge of building the infrastructure for CNG fleets head on. Together with funding from the federal government and private sector partners, including Clean Energy Fuels, the coalition and SunLine are now finalizing the last station in a network of seven CNG fueling stations along major routes throughout the rural region. In the future, the stakeholders hope to convert the stations for hydrogen fueling as well.

And, with more stations available along the regular routes, buses aren’t forced to return to the central Thousand Palms station every time they need to refuel — saving precious time and money on fuel. Adding more stations has also translated into increased hours of service for the elderly and disabled riders, and enabled local cities to add their own CNG fleet vehicles.

“Now our buses are able to provide faster and more efficient service to customers, and each city gets a share of the profits, based on the amount of fuel their station sells,” said Richard Cromwell, who is a co-coordinator of C3VR, along with Georgia Seivright. “It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

Most recently, C3VR was instrumental in putting together a collaborative project sponsored by the City of Desert Hot Springs, Calif. that was awarded $1.32 million in air quality mitigation funds by South Coast Air Quality Management District. The coalition plans to use the funds to upgrade an older CNG station at Mission Springs Water District, as well as outfit the local water district, several charitable organizations, and a food bank delivery organization with 22 new CNG trucks. C3VR will also focus on developing a network of electric car charging stations.

“The Coachella Valley has historically been known for the hospitality industry and agriculture,” Cromwell said. “Who wants to visit a place, or eat something from a place — let alone live in a place — that’s not doing everything possible to protect its environment? No one.”

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

For more information about C3VR, visit www.c3vr.org/, or e-mail Richard Cromwell at [email protected].

Kendall Septon is a communications specialist for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

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