Philadelphia Gas Works operates approximately 600 vehicles in its fleet. It plans to add 24 natural gas models in spring 2014. (Photo: Philadelphia Gas Works)

Philadelphia Gas Works operates approximately 600 vehicles in its fleet. It plans to add 24 natural gas models in spring 2014. (Photo: Philadelphia Gas Works)

Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW), Philadelphia’s natural gas supplier, is purchasing 24 natural gas vehicles (NGVs), and plans to introduce them May or June 2014. As of press time, the utility said it is currently leaning toward natural gas-powered Honda Civics.

"Although the current plan is for 24 NGV Honda Civics, that purchase may be adjusted to accommodate other NGVs depending on cost, availability and other factors," noted Barry O’Sullivan, director of corporate communications for PGW.

The NGVs will join PGW’s existing fleet of approximately 600 vehicles, which includes a wide array of vehicle types, from mid-size sedans and minivans to pickup trucks, dump trucks, and maintenance walk-in and utility vans. PGW also operates a handful of Toyota Prius models. Fleet vehicles typically remain in use for approximately seven years, depending on the vehicle type and how it’s used.

Most of the NGVs will be made available to PGW’s marketing department, but will also be assigned to a variety of other departments. PGW recognizes that the widespread adoption of natural gas as a transportation fuel holds enormous potential, not just economically, but also in terms of energy security and job creation.

“Natural gas has proven that it can be a viable means of breaking our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, and that it can be quickly put to use fuelling a wide range of transportation options (from fleet and light-duty vehicles to heavy-duty trucking and off-road applications). These benefits can be realized in a way that produces fewer harmful vehicle emissions than either gasoline or diesel. In fact, some sources calculate that natural gas vehicles can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 29 percent, compared to gasoline-powered vehicles,” O’Sullivan said.

“These advantages are real and compelling, and our intention is to introduce people to natural gas as a new and better choice to gasoline and diesel, when it comes to transportation. PGW is leading by example when it comes to natural gas vehicles, and the ultimate benefit accumulates not to us, but to the families that call this region home,” O’Sullivan said.

PGW actively promotes CNG technology to its customers, particularly those with fleet operations. The benefits of NGVs include PGW’s NGV fuel rate, which currently averages $1.50 a gallon equivalent less than gasoline, and the reduced environmental impact of CNG fuel which is particularly important given that Philadelphia is a non-attainment area for air quality (i.e. air pollution levels persistently exceed the national ambient air quality standards). The company also assists its customers with project development by identifying grant opportunities and putting them in touch with other potential resources.

The recent award of $391,445 in Act 13 Natural Gas Vehicle funds within PGW's operating area will help support a viable natural gas vehicle (NGV) market in the region, company officials stated. The utility's primary role in the project will be to support the development of a CNG fueling station on East Oregon Avenue in South Philadelphia.

Founded in 1836, PGW is owned by the City of Philadelphia and is the largest municipally owned gas utility in the country. It manages a distribution system of approximately 6,000 miles of gas mains and service pipes supplying approximately 500,000 customers. PGW's operations are managed by a nonprofit corporation, the Philadelphia Facilities Management Corporation (PFMC).