By Matt Olberding
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – Two years ago, all the operations vehicles at the Lincoln Airport, from maintenance trucks to police vehicles, ran on either unleaded gasoline or diesel fuel. Now 11 out of a fleet of 25 run on compressed natural gas.
The airport used a federal grant to help pay to convert the first four vehicles to run on natural gas but has since paid to convert seven on its own.
The airport is among a growing number of local government agencies and private companies starting to see the value of switching to natural gas to fuel their fleets.
“The market for natural gas vehicles has really taken off locally,” said Paul Cammack, customer relations manager in Lincoln for Black Hills Energy.
Lincoln Airport Executive Director John Wood said the economics make converting to natural gas a nobrainer.
In the past year, the airport has paid an average of $1.33 per gallon of compressed natural gas. Regular unleaded gasoline during that time has averaged well over $3 a gallon, with diesel costing even more.
At the same time, the cost to convert the vehicles has fallen from about $12,000 apiece to around $8,000, Wood said.
At the current prices for gas and the cost of conversion, he said it takes the airport about three years to start saving money.
“I think, financially, it pays off,” Wood said. “It saves us money long term.”
There are also other factors to consider, he said, such as the fact that natural gas burns cleaner. Not only is that “green,” cutting down on emissions, it also could lead to vehicles that last longer and need less maintenance.
“We should save additional money by not having to replace vehicles as often,” Wood said.
Black Hills, which had two natural gas vehicles based in Lincoln two years ago, now has 14. That makes up more than half the company’s entire fleet.
In addition, the city of Lincoln has three natural gas-powered vehicles, not counting the city Libraries’ Bookmobile; the state has one vehicle; and Cammack said he knows of at least four or five private businesses that have at least one vehicle.1 2 next >>