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News > Greening Tinker: Base buys 8 CNG pickups
Greening Tinker
Chris Erickson of the 72nd Logistics Readiness Squadron, Tinker’s motor pool fleet monitor, buffs one of the eight new CNG-powered vehicles that Tinker procured for use by the 76th Maintenance Support Group. (Air Force photo by Mike W. Ray)
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Greening Tinker: Base buys 8 CNG pickups

Posted 7/11/2013   Updated 7/11/2013 Email story   Print story


by Mike W. Ray
Tinker Public Affairs

7/11/2013 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.  -- Tinker has acquired eight new pickups that are powered by compressed natural gas, a fuel that is cheaper and burns cleaner than gasoline and is plentiful in Oklahoma.

"We want to get even more of them," and probably will as vehicles in the base motor-pool fleet wear out, said Earl Wade, deputy director of the 72nd Logistics Readiness Squadron. "Now we can get a CNG-powered vehicle for almost the same price" as a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle.

All eight trucks have already been delivered to the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex for use by the 76th Maintenance Support Group, said Mike Carocci of the 72nd LRS, manager of Tinker's motor pool.

All eight pickups actually have dual fuel systems: gasoline, for starting in cold weather, and compressed natural gas for routine daily operations.

All eight are trucks that look just like any other large pickup except for two differences: the dashboard has two fuel gauges (one for gasoline, the other for CNG) and about half of the pickup bed is occupied by a pair of CNG fuel tanks. According to Chris Erickson, 72nd LRS vehicle fleet monitor, each vehicle will hold 8.5 gallons of CNG and 8 gallons of gasoline.

CNG does have a couple of drawbacks, Mr. Carocci and Mr. Erickson acknowledged. For instance, a gallon-equivalent of CNG takes up 17 cubic feet of space, compared to the small space required to store a gallon of gasoline.

Also, "You can't go very far" on a tankful of CNG, Mr. Wade said. However, the new pickups will operate almost solely on Tinker "so they don't have to go very far to fill up." Tinker has a CNG fueling station near the motor pool headquarters in Bldg. 1130 on the west side of the base, and Oklahoma City has 21 public CNG stations.

Tinker previously had a significant number of CNG-powered vehicles, but they were phased out because of "compatibility issues," Mr. Wade said. Tinker received vehicles from the manufacturer that were equipped with gasoline-powered combustion engines, then sent them out for installation of after-market CNG equipment. Subsequently those vehicles had a tendency to break down frequently, Mr. Carocci said.

In comparison, the new vehicles have CNG equipment installed by the original equipment manufacturer, Mr. Wade and Mr. Carocci emphasized.

The CNG installed as original equipment manufactured parts on the eight pickups was attributed to an initiative promoted by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The two governors urged their colleagues throughout the nation to procure as many CNG vehicles as possible, because bulk purchases tend to drive down costs. As a result, 22 states expressed an interest in the program and more than 100 dealerships in 28 states submitted bids on providing OEM-equipped CNG vehicles for state fleets. And vehicle sticker prices did indeed drop.

That enabled Tinker to benefit when it asked the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Warner-Robins AFB to buy the new trucks. "We leveraged the CNG capability provided by the multi-state consortium to get what we needed for Tinker," said Col. Stephen Wood, vice commander of the 72nd Air Base Wing.

Oklahoma ranks fourth among the top five natural-gas producing states in the nation.
"We here at Tinker are mandated to increase our use of alternative fuels," Mr. Wade noted.

For example, he related, any base vehicle manufactured to operate on flex-fuel must use flex-fuel if it's available at Tinker or within five miles of the base. Some vehicles in the base motor pool run on E85, which is 85 percent ethanol mixed with 15 percent gasoline. Several hundred vehicles run on B20 biodiesel, which is regular diesel with a 20 percent mixture of biofuel, which is made from a diverse mix of feedstocks that include recycled cooking oil, soybean oil, and animal fats. And several electric-powered golf carts are employed in Bldg. 3001 for a lot of employee transportation.

Natural-Gas Fast Facts

· NG is inexpensive: as low as $0.98 to $1.19 per gallon of gas equivalent.

· NG saves on fuel cost. For example, if you get 15 mpg in your truck, you will get the same CNG gallon of gasoline equivalent. At current CNG prices, you will save about $2 per GGE for the same distance driven.

· NG reduces carbon monoxide pollution by as much as 90 percent over gasoline and diesel vehicles.

· NG contributes much less to the formation of ground-level ozone pollution when used as fuel than do other fossil fuels such as gasoline and diesel.

· NG is safe. It has a limited flammability range, making accidental ignition or combustion unlikely, and NG fuel tanks withstand crashes better than gasoline fuel tanks.

· NG can be used as a vehicle fuel in two forms: either compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG). Vehicles are ordered from manufacturers to operate exclusively on natural gas or as bi-fuel vehicles operating on either gasoline or natural gas.

· NG is a "plus" in natural-gas producing states like Oklahoma; a filling station can be outfitted in residential garages for convenient at-home refueling.

· NG burns cleaner, costs less, and generates jobs for Americans while moving the country toward the goal of energy independence.

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