Santa Fe to purchase natural-gas trash trucks

Santa Fe’s trash trucks are getting cleaner. City officials have ordered four new trash-collection vehicles that run on compressed natural gas instead of diesel. The trucks should be in use by early next year, making up about 10 percent of the trash-collection fleet.

Of the approximately 45 heavy-duty vehicles used to collect refuse from businesses and homes, the city already has one natural-gas trash truck that went into service for commercial pickups last summer. It will now evaluate performance of the vehicles on a bigger scale and test their capabilities for the quick starts and stops required on Santa Fe’s residential streets.

The bulk purchase could signal a change in direction for the rest of the fleet, said Nick Schiavo, the city’s energy specialist. The large trucks don’t get great mileage but burning compressed natural gas instead of diesel reduces emissions and costs less, he said.

“These are the kind of vehicles that we want to switch from diesel,” he said, “It makes a lot of sense because they are so much cleaner.”

Cindy Padilla, director of the city Environmental Services Division (formerly Solid Waste Division), said she’s interested in crunching numbers about the cost of vehicles compared to their maintenance needs and other factors to determine if a goal of replacing every diesel with CNG is attainable. In the few months that the first CNG truck has been used, she said, the city has already saved money on fuel. Most years, she said, the division budgets for replacement of four heavy trucks.

Two of the new trucks will be front-loaders for business pickup and two are side-loaders with a swing arm for residential pickup. The next CNG vehicle will probably go to the recycling program, Padilla said.

Trucks that run on natural gas cost more than diesel versions, she said, but a state grant from the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department that was formally accepted by the city Tuesday will make up the difference in cost this time. The trucks, ordered earlier this year, should be delivered in December.

Transition of the trash fleet is in line with a 2004 city policy that called for use of more alternative-fuel vehicles and with the city’s Sustainable Santa Fe plan.

“When we talk about sustainability, we are looking at environmental stewardship, social justice and economic health,” said Padilla. “I think that when we talk about making our purchasing decisions along those guidelines and those principles, then we are going to be made sustainable decisions.”

Santa Fe Trails city buses have been largely powered with natural gas since the system began in the early 1990s, and the city has purchased several CNG cars and trucks for use by employees in recent years. The Police Department has dozens of patrol cruisers that use E-85, a mixture of gasoline and ethanol. Councilors on Tuesday also signed off on the purchase of several more Honda Civics that run on CNG for the Santa Fe Ride paratransit program.

The Associated Press reported in April that natural gas prices had hit a 10-year low. U.S. natural gas production has increased in recent years.

Contact Julie Ann Grimm at 505-986-3017 and​

This article was first published by Santa fe New Mexican.

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