KENT — With Ohio’s status as “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas,” it only makes sense for some expansion of infrastructure to make it available to area motorists, said CNG-One’s Michael Battaglia.
About 60 people were on hand Wednesday as PARTA celebrated just that — the opening of its compressed natural gas filling station, which it uses in some of its buses and makes available to the public. The station is located at 2000 Summit Road just east of Kent State University.
With the addition of CNG on the site, PARTA general manager Claudia Amrhein said the agency now has two compressed natural gas buses and plans to buy eight more during the next several years. She encourages other fleet managers to consider converting as well.
“The station is now open to the public, which makes it really possible for local fleet owners to consider converting to natural gas-powered vehicles,” she said.
According to Battaglia, several area fleet managers are weighing whether to make the transition, which one should not do lightly. CNG-One converts vehicles running on regular gas to compressed natural gas vehicles.
“Typically, it can cost $6,000-$9,000 to convert,” he said. “It’s not for a low-volume user.”
Between the reduction in fuel costs — CNG is $1 per gallon — and less wear and tear on an engine, Battaglia said people who drive 100 miles or more a day may find the conversion worthwhile. Others should just stick to routine maintenance for savings.
“You’re better off inflating your tires regularly and keeping your car well-tuned,” he said.
However, for fleet operators and others who put a lot of miles on their vehicles, the change may be worthwhile, he said.
“I brought my own vehicle today which we brought to demonstrate to you; it has 175,000 well-earned miles,” said Battaglia. “It will have another 175,000 on it before it retires, and the reason for that is, because of the lack of carbon in the engine, the carbon deposits to do not build up and cause a degeneration of the metallurgic parts of the car.”
In addition to making good financial sense for fleets, compressed natural gas is cleaner and produced locally, according to Amrhein.
“The benefits of natural gas are many,” she said. “It’s clean; it’s cost-efficient; it’s stably priced; it’s abundant; it’s domestically produced. It’s a smart way to power our fleets and protect the environment all at the same time.”
According to literature distributed by PARTA, compressed natural gas can reduce carbon dioxide by 30 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by more than 70 percent. Also, in the compressed natural gas era, 98 percent of PARTA’s fuel will be produced in the U.S.
A variety of guests offered their congratulations to PARTA on opening the first compressed natural gas station in Portage County, including Jordan Pennell of Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office, who presented a certificate of thanks to PARTA.
“We helped fund the garage, as well as the station, through our grant through CMAQ,” said Curtis Baker, executive director of the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study. “It being a public station is just a fantastic amenity for Portage County.”
A Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grant can be used on projects that help decrease traffic congestion and improve air quality.
Others who spoke included Justin Ostry of Quasar Energy Group, Jenny Loveland of Valley Truck Centers, Charlie Ramer of NOPEC and Ken Nicholson of Clean Energy Fuels.
The hours of operation for PARTA’s compressed natural gas station are 5 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
For more information, visit PARTA at www.partaonline.org.
Reporter Bob Gaetjens can be reached at 330-541-9440, email@example.com or @bobgaetjens_rpc.