City of Athens Shows Off New CNG-Powered Ride

As part of continuing efforts to make Athens more environmentally friendly, officials on Friday unveiled the city’s first compressed natural gas vehicle.

The 2012 Honda Civic, purchased at a price of $26,000, represents one of Athens’ first steps to reduce its dependence on foreign fuel. Because the closest CNG fueling stations are in Nashville and Birmingham, a slow-fill gas station was installed at gas training facility leak city for $7,900.

Both the vehicle and station were purchased with Gas Department funds.

“It amazes me we haven’t gone to this a long time ago,” said Mayor Ronnie Marks, while giving an overview of the vehicle.

The car will get about 41 miles per gallon, and the price per gallon is currently $1.40. Gas Department Manager Steve Carter said while the cost-savings are noticeable, the “green” vehicle emits 30 to 35 percent fewer emissions than a normal vehicle and maintenance should be less.

The next step in the city’s CNG journey could be taken by the City Council during Tuesday night’s meeting. Bids for a new CNG-powered garbage truck have been reviewed by council members and could be awarded during the meeting.

Carter said the estimated cost of the vehicle would be about $264,000. The city’s Electric Department is also looking at buying a CNG-powered bucket truck.

Marks would also like to see the program eventually expand to city and county bus systems, and has been talking to superintendents about the possibility.

Changing over the city’s fleet over the next several years could save the city a significant amount of money on regular gas and diesel fuel. Athens is part of The Fuelmanagement Solution, or Fuelman, which allows employees to fill up at a cheaper rate than the general public, usually about 30 cents less.

Marks has previously said budgeting for gasoline can be a tricky situation. Vehicles on the general fund side used 180,000 gallons of gasoline in the previous fiscal year. He said if gasoline prices are $1 higher than what was budgeted, the general fund takes a $180,000 hit.

“We can complain about fuel prices and try to find ways to limit vehicle usage which could lead to cuts in services to our citizens, or we can be proactive,” he said. “We have decided to be proactive and green.”

Athens is also looking at the possibility of building a fast-fill CNG station, which would make the city a part of what Carter calls the “CNG corridor” on Interstate 65.

The fast-fill station could refuel a vehicle at a rate of 120 gas gallon equivalents per hour, whereas the slow-fill station is rated at only 1 GGE per hour. Carter said a fast-fill station could refuel the CNG garbage truck in 10 minutes.

The fast-fill station will cost $350,000 to $400,000, and is being advertised for bids.

“I believe it is the fuel of the future,” Carter said.​

This article was first published by thew News Courier.

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