The Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) gas operations team is partnering with fleet operations to pilot 12 new heavy- and medium-duty natural gas vehicles. This pilot is the first step to what is an expected compressed natural gas (CNG) fleet numbering 160 or more vehicles.
In the early 2000s, PG&E operated over 1,300 CNG vehicles as its low-emission fleet, because at the time electric vehicle technology wasn’t advanced enough. With the advent of new and improved battery systems, light-duty and some medium-duty vehicles in PG&E’s fleet will be all electric. However, larger low-emission vehicles in the medium- and heavy-duty classes are currently best served by using CNG technology, according to Gas General Construction director Ross Leverett. The pilot program will take employee feedback into account to ensure safety, reliability, comfort, range, and horsepower meet the needs of operators. Once the final design is completed, the larger fleet will be rolled out to gas operations.
The initial pilot of 12 vehicles will include dump trucks, heavy gas crew trucks, and gas mechanic trucks and will be conducted during 2022 and 2023. The vehicles will be deployed to various service centers in PG&E’s service area, to allow for field testing in a range of environments. After the successful pilot, PG&E will deploy the additional vehicles during 2024 and 2025.
According to Janisse Quinones, PG&E senior vice president of Gas Engineering, the environmental and cost-saving benefits are the primary reasons for this program, which is why it aligns with PG&E’s sustainability goals.
Specifically, these vehicles emit less carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur oxide particles into the air than diesel-powered vehicles. They will also help save up to one million gallons of diesel fuel a year once the pilot is complete. The switch to renewable natural gas is estimated to reduce the fleet’s carbon emissions by 2,500 metric tons a year, which is a 9% yearly drop and an overall emissions reduction upwards of 30% over diesel.
PG&E will be utilizing renewable natural gas (RNG) to power this new fleet, which will lead to about $3.5 million in annual savings. According to senior fleet engineer Alexander Reimer, natural gas is about half the cost of diesel fuel, not including the incentives associated with RNG. PG&E operates 24 CNG stations to provide fuel to both the company and third-party drivers.
“Additional benefits of the CNG fleet include less maintenance and possibly greater reliability due to its simpler exhaust emissions package. The engines are also quieter than their diesel counterparts,” Reimer added.