Alternative reality

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

CONCORD, Calif. - By recently replacing his six diesel delivery trucks with vans that run on compressed natural gas, Cliff Woolard figures he’ll cut his fuel costs per truck by $250 a month.

Indeed, when you consider that natural gas sells for about $1.31 a gallon, compared to $2.30 for gas in his area, its easy to see why the owner of Home Med-Equip is such an alternative fuel booster. But the cash savings are only part of CNG’s appeal, Woolard said.

For example, CNG burns cleaner than gas or diesel fuel, and with that comes an added benefit: California allows environmentally friendly vehicles to travel in car pool lanes. That’s key in California where slow-moving traffic is a part of life. Being environmentally friendly is also a nice marketing tool.

“I’ve even had referral sources say, ‘This fantastic. You folks are investing in the future,’” Woolard said.

Additionally, because CNG runs in a modified gas engine, the maintenance costs are less than those required by a specialty trained diesel mechanic.

The CNG trucks cost about $35,000 fully outfitted, which is less than the cost of a diesel vehicle, and several thousand dollars more than a comparable truck that runs on gasoline, Woolard said.

“Switching to CNG was part of a larger design,” he said. “It was to help us get ready for the Medicare Modernization Act. I think there are opportunities for people to cut costs without cutting services. I think I’ve found one here. This will refine and make our delivery process more efficient.”