Kanawha to convert third alternate-fuel vehicle

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County officials are about to award a bid to convert the county's third vehicle to run on an alternative fuel source.Kanawha County commissioners Kent Carper, Dave Hardy and Hoppy Shores are expected to approve a $12,900 bid at a regular County Commission meeting Thursday for West Virginia CNG in Barboursville to convert a 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe to run on compressed natural gas, according to Matt Thomas, emergency management and economic development coordinator for the Kanawha County Commission.County officials took delivery of their first alternate-fuel vehicle -- another Tahoe that can run on either gasoline or natural gas -- in September 2012. Carper believes cheap, abundant natural gas can be tapped locally and used as an inexpensive fuel source, creating local industries to both harvest and supply the gas.Local industrial leaders are working to set up a series of compressed natural gas fueling stations in the area. The first few, including a fueling station at the Spring Street Foodland in Charleston, are supposed to be operational by fall.County officials want to buy some natural gas-powered vehicles and some vehicles that run on liquid propane to see what technology works best. Some fuel industry officials believe compressed natural gas works better for larger vehicles like buses and industrial vehicles, while propane may make more sense for cars and small trucks.
Thomas said county officials recently approved a bid to convert a Ford F-150 pickup truck to run on liquid propane. "They're just waiting for the parts," he said.State and federal officials tried to push natural gas as a vehicle fuel source in the 1990s, but the idea lost steam because gasoline prices dropped to a point where natural gas was no longer a clear advantage. Carper hopes today's higher gasoline prices and a boom in natural gas production will make natural gas and propane attractive alternatives."I just think it's a sensible thing to do," Carper said about converting vehicles.Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215. 
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