These CNG Ram 2500 trucks are being used by the city's Department of Housing and Neighborhoods.  Photo courtesy of City of Little Rock.

These CNG Ram 2500 trucks are being used by the city's Department of Housing and Neighborhoods. Photo courtesy of City of Little Rock.

Following the opening of its compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station in April this year, the City of Little Rock, Ark., has continued to adopt CNG vehicles into its fleet. Its latest investments include three truck conversions and the purchase of nine Ram and Ford trucks.

Renee Tyler, special program coordinator, City of Little Rock Fleet Services, said one of these conversions is partially grant-funded. The fleet received grant funding from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to convert a 1999 International 4700 wrecker truck to run on CNG. The grant pays 40% of the approximately $60,000 cost of the conversion. Tyler explained that staff identified the truck as a good candidate because of its good condition, and conversion to a new engine would allow the fleet to use it for eight to 10 more years. If not converted, the truck would have soon been replaced or refurbished.

The truck will be used by different departments for towing heavy-duty equipment and vehicles. The conversion company, a local business chosen through competitive bid, delivered the truck last week, and technicians are currently testing the vehicle. The fleet will have the vehicle painted "environmental green," Tyler said.

The fleet also recently converted a 2013 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 to run on CNG, and the conversion of a 2013 Dodge Ram is currently under way. The Silverado is used by the Department of Parks, and the Ram will be used by the Police Department as an administrative vehicle, Tyler said. Tyler explained that the fleet gets the conversions done by a local company chosen by competitive bid. The fleet is working with other departments to explore conversion of additional vehicles, and staff members are currently looking into some Silverados in Animal Control.

"We're trying to get a [CNG] vehicle placed in each department," Tyler said.

In addition to conversions, the fleet has purchased five CNG factory-ready 2014 Dodge Ram 2500 trucks, three CNG Ford F-150 trucks, and one CNG Ford F-350. These will be used by the Departments of Housing and Public Works and the Zoo. The F-350 will be used as a mobile PM unit for fire stations. The truck will be equipped with a lube machine allowing fleet technicians to perform oil changes and lube jobs onsite. The Ram trucks were delivered in the past month, and Tyler expects the four Ford trucks to be delivered by the end of September.

Once the final vehicles are delivered next month, the fleet's CNG fleet will consist of 22 vehicles. In addition to CNG, the fleet is looking into purchasing more electric vehicles, but has not made any decisions yet.

Tyler explained that the city is focusing on alternative fuels for cost savings as well as environmental reasons.

Currently, city departments pay $1.10 for CNG per gasoline gallon equivalent, $2.86 per gallon of gasoline, and $3.05 per gallon of diesel fuel.

By Thi Dao