Propane Autogas – Conversions and Infrastructure

Going Green in the Bluegrass State

November 2013, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by By Julie Sutor, NREL

The GEM electric vehicle will be used for numerous tasks that take rangers around the Mammoth Cave Campground and the Visitor Center area.
The GEM electric vehicle will be used for numerous tasks that take rangers around the Mammoth Cave Campground and the Visitor Center area.

In the world of sustainable fleet operations, few have been in the trenches longer than Melissa Howell, coordinator of the Kentucky Clean Cities Partnership (KCCP).

For nearly two decades, Howell has been working with fleets, fuel providers, vehicle manufacturers, policymakers, and other transportation stakeholders to cut emissions and petroleum use in the Bluegrass State and beyond. In 1994, a year after the U.S. Department of Energy launched the national Clean Cities program, Howell helped found KCCP. She has held the reins ever since, making her the longest-serving coordinator among the nation’s nearly 100 local Clean Cities coalitions.

“Thanks to Melissa Howell’s tireless dedication and commitment, Kentucky is less reliant on petroleum, and its residents are realizing tangible economic and environmental benefits,” said National Clean Cities Director Dennis Smith.

Visitors to Mammoth Cave
National Park ride propane-autogas-powered buses, acquired with assistance from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program. Melissa Howell worked closely with the park to help place the buses into operation.
Visitors to Mammoth CaveNational Park ride propane-autogas-powered buses, acquired with assistance from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program. Melissa Howell worked closely with the park to help place the buses into operation.

Howell has assisted with alternative-fuels deployment projects undertaken by fleets of all shapes and sizes, including those of Fort Knox army base, UPS, the universities of Kentucky and Louisville, and Murray State University. Howell has worked closely with Mammoth Cave National Park for many years, helping it become the first national park in the country to operate all its vehicles on alternative fuels, including propane autogas, biodiesel, electricity, and ethanol blends. These efforts are helping the park reduce its transportation-related emissions and showcasing these fuels and technologies to visitors.

And, thanks to Howell’s leadership, thousands of Kentucky students ride to school each day on diesel-electric hybrid buses. School districts across the state now operate a combined 156 hybrid buses, and project partners analyze vehicle performance data on an ongoing basis.

On the right routes, and with proper driver training, some of the hybrids are achieving double the fuel economy of their diesel counterparts.

“We look at the data as it comes in,” Howell said. “When we see that one county is knocking it out of the park in terms of fuel savings, we can share the keys to its success with other districts.” 

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