Kwik Trip to offer natural gas for cars

A new fuel choice for drivers — compressed natural gas — is on its way to Rochester pumps.

Kwik Trip plans to introduce compressed natural gas, or CNG, as an option at the station being built along 19th Street Northwest by CostCo's new store.

"We think this is the fuel of the future," says Ruanna Hayes, Kwik Trip's alternative fuels project coordinator.

To introduce CNG here, Kwik Trip is sponsoring a public information seminar on Sept. 11 with a panel discussion and speakers from area companies like McNeilus Truck and Nuss Truck & Equipment. Converting vehicles, return on investment, safety and other topics will be discussed.

"We thought this would be a good way for us to reach out to our customers in the Rochester area," says Hayes. "This is a way to educate people and show that CNG can be a practical solution for fleet use and also for personal use."

Kwik Trip expects its new 19th Street station to open in mid-November. The CNG dispenser will be paired with the diesel pumps at a heavy-duty fueling island apart from the gas pumps.

CNG is significantly less expensive than gasoline or diesel. Currently, Kwik Trip sells it for between $1.59 to $1.79, says Hayes. That's about $2 cheaper than a gallon of gasoline.

It also produces less emissions than standard fuels and is said to create less wear on engines. However, CNG vehicles cost significantly more than standard ones.

The U.S. Dept. of Energy estimates that about 112,000 vehicles on U.S. roads run on CNG. That number has been growing by about 3.7 percent a year, since 2000.

Large fleet vehicles, like garbage trucks, buses, cement mixers and shuttle vans, are currently the majority of vehicles adapted to use natural gas. Honda is the only car maker currently selling a model that uses CNG. However, some passenger cars and vans can be converted to use it.

McNeilus in Dodge Center have been making garbage and cement trucks that run on CNG for the past few years.

Waste Management Inc. is called the owner of the largest CNG fleet in the U.S., with approximately 1,700 trucks.

As Kwik Trip researched CNG for the past two years, the company added about 20 CNG trucks and cars to its own fleet.

"We've seen a great return on that. We're planning to add more soon," says Hayes.

The La Crosse-based convenience store chain already has three locations offering CNG in Wisconsin, and the plan is to open five more, including Rochester, yet this year. More than 10 more are slated to open in 2013.​

This article was first published by The Post-Bulletin.

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