For the past year, the Deschutes County (Ore.) Road Department has been testing a new way to green its fleet. The fleet partnered with a local technology company to install an in-vehicle natural gas compressor in one of its trucks.
Road Department Fleet & Equipment Manager Randy McCulley said the county was interested in alternative fuels and looked into compressed natural gas (CNG), but it had no infrastructure to support the fuel.
"It's not like there's a CNG station up the road," he said. The closest station is almost 150 miles away and, at the time, every commercial compressor the department saw was out of its budget.
Deschutes County Commissioner Tony DeBone got the department in contact with OnBoard Dynamics, a local technology company that was developing a mobile natural gas compressor, in 2013. The department worked with OnBoard to discuss its fleet needs and agreed to test the technology.
The fleet purchased a Ford F-250 in 2015, which OnBoard upfitted with the compressor and tank. By aligning the purchase with the county's existing replacement schedule, it avoided any additional costs to try out the system. The truck, used by a road inspector, traveled about 100 miles a day, running on both gasoline and CNG. To refuel, the truck connects to the fleet's natural gas line and the compressor produces CNG.
During an 18-week test period between March to July of this year, the pickup traveled 7,262 miles, including 4,680 miles on CNG. In that time, the fleet reduced its CO2 emissions by 25% compared to using a regular gasoline truck. It also saved about 187 gallons of water that would have been used to refine gasoline.
Using the data collected, Onboard continues to work on its in-vehicle compressor. Its first product to market, a mobile compressor, will be released in 2017.
McCulley said the road department has expanded its alternative-fuel adoption. All of its diesel vehicles run renewable diesel and the fleet plans to partner with OnBoard to use its mobile compressor when the product is ready. With it, the fleet hopes to expand CNG adoption to a number of its road maintenance vehicles, all Ford F-250s.