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Breaking down the barriers of natural gas usage

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New offerings point to the expanding use of compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel systems.

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“Next to the limited commercial fuel infrastructure, the biggest barrier to the broad adoption of natural gas vehicles is the initial cost of the technology,” said Dennis Cooke, president of global fleet management solutions at Ryder System. “Our new relationship with Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide will help make CNG vehicles more affordable, so more businesses can take advantage of their environmental and efficiency benefits.”

Cooke’s statement was part of an announcement that Ryder has entered into a long-term agreement with Quantum for the purchase and supply of complete CNG fuel systems for leased CNG trucks. Ryder’s fleet, today, includes more than 500 compressed and liquefied natural gas vehicles that have operated more than 20 million miles serving over 40 customers in California, New York, Texas, Arizona, Michigan, Utah, Georgia and Louisiana.

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Under the agreement, Ryder will purchase Quantum’s Q-Lite CNG tank systems directly from the manufacturer. The high-capacity systems feature an adaptable design that can be used on medium- as well as heavy-duty models. Ryder’s maintenance team, which will install the tank systems, worked with Quantum to develop comprehensive procedures to ensure that installations meet industry standards.

Natural gas tank storage systems are one of the most expensive components of a natural gas vehicle, Ryder noted. By purchasing the systems directly from Quantum, the company said, it can pass savings onto its lease customers, delivering a faster return on investment in natural gas vehicle technology. In addition to the purchasing agreement, Quantum and Ryder also announced plans to work together to improve future fuel system designs based on Ryder’s experience operating CNG vehicles in a variety of commercial truck applications.

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The use of natural gas vehicles among fleets is clearly growing and manufacturers are responding with a range of products. Recently, Ford announced that agencies in the state of Oklahoma have ordered 256 F-150 trucks prepped with a gaseous-fuel option for its 3.7-liter V6 engine that can run on CNG or liquid propane gas. The specially equipped bi-fuel F-150 model purchased by Oklahoma features a standard gasoline tank and a supplementary CNG tank that gives the light-duty truck a combined range up to 750 miles, depending on tank size.

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By summer, along with the F-150, Ford will offer eight vehicles that can run on CNG, including Transit and E-Series van, wagon, cutaway and chassis cab models, F-Series Super Duty pickups and chassis cabs, the F-650 medium-duty truck and the F53 and F59 stripped chassis.

Ford also reported it is on track to sell more than 15,000 CNG capable vehicles in 2014. “Since 2010, CNG-prepped truck sales have increased more than 250%,” said Jon Coleman, Ford fleet sales manager. “Cumulative sales are expected to exceed 50,000 trucks by the end of the year, and we anticipate demand for CNG-prepped vehicles to continue growing.”

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Recently as well, Quantum announced it had received approximately $2 million in new orders for Q-Lite CNG storage tanks from a combination of new and existing customers around the U.S. and Canada, and across many vehicle sizes.

“Those orders reflect the continued strong growth of natural gas power as fleets look for ways to reduce transportation costs,” said Brian Olson, president and chief executive officer of Quantum. “The savings achieved by many of the fleets that have been testing CNG vehicles is now translating into volume orders, and we expect this trend to accelerate in the remainder of 2014.”

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