OKLAHOMA CITY —
More than a dozen compressed natural gas-fueled pickups were delivered to Oklahoma transportation officials Wednesday as part of Gov. Mary Fallin’s plan to supplement the state’s vehicle fleet with clean-burning, low-cost CNG vehicles.
The white Ram 2500 pickups are among 242 new CNG trucks that are being added to the fleets of the Department of Transportation and other state agencies.
The trucks represent the largest single order of the alternative fuel vehicles since Chrysler launched production in October, state officials and company executives said.
“Today, we’re keeping true on a promise,” Fallin said in a parking lot at ODOT headquarters, where some of the new pickups were on display.
Chrysler official Peter Grady said CNG vehicles are now part of the automaker’s long-term strategy for meeting federal fuel economy and emission standards. “We know there’s a market out there. And now is the time,” Grady said.
Fallin is leading a bipartisan coalition of 22 states that are working to place more CNG vehicles in their fleets. Since taking office in 2011, Fallin has petitioned other states and their governors, met with automobile manufacturers in Detroit, and issued and received bids for more affordable CNG vehicles for use in state fleets.
Fallin said the multi-state effort had produced more than 100 bids from vehicle dealerships in 28 states.
Fallin has said adding CNG vehicles to state fleets will better utilize an Oklahoma-produced fuel and help create jobs in the state.
Oklahoma was the fourth largest natural gas producing state in 2011, said the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“It helps create Oklahoma jobs from an Oklahoma resource,” she said.
Natural gas also burns cleaner and is less expensive than gasoline and diesel fuels, the governor said. Oklahoma’s statewide average price for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline on Tuesday was $3.56, while a gallon equivalent of CNG is less than $1. CNG vehicles achieve nearly identical fuel mileage as unleaded regular gasoline.
“Just think about the cost savings. It will save taxpayer dollars,” Fallin said.
Unlike gas-powered vehicles that are converted to CNG, Chrysler officials said the Ram 2500 is the only original equipment manufactured CNG-powered pickup truck in North America.
ODOT is adding 160 of the trucks to its fleet and will use them primarily as service trucks on the state’s roads and highways in all 77 Oklahoma counties.
Officials said the trucks cost about $30,000 each. The price tag of each CNG vehicle was to be $12,000 more than a conventionally powered truck, but dropped to about $6,000 more thanks to demand from the multi-state bidding process, costs that will be recovered in fuel savings in less than two years, officials said.
Oklahoma Secretary of Energy Mike Ming said the ultimate goal is to create enough demand that CNG vehicles will be widely available nationwide for public fleets and private car buyers.
“Volume’s the key,” Ming said. “With volume, we’re 100 percent confident we can do that.”
The state is expected to have about 100 CNG fueling stations by the end of the year.
Ming said Oklahoma already leads the nation in the number of CNG fueling stations per capita.
The Ram 2500 CNG system was engineered and tested by Chrysler Group and assembled at the company’s Heavy Duty truck plant in Saltillo, Mexico.
Besides Oklahoma, other states participating in the CNG initiative are Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.