Xcel Energy supplies electricity and natural gas to power homes and businesses, as well as for transportation. Today some of our customers are looking for alternatives to gasoline to fuel their driving needs. Natural gas vehicles are a clean, affordable option that can meet nearly every kind of passenger and commercial transportation need.
There are two types of natural gas vehicles (NGVs);
Dedicated NGVs operate only on natural gas. Dedicated NGVs generally demonstrate better performance and have lower emissions compared to bi-fuel vehicles because their engines are optimized to run on natural gas alone. Dedicated NGVs are not required to carry two different types of fuel—which means they don’t sacrifice cargo space or carry additional weight.
Bi-fuel NGVs can run on either natural gas or conventional fuel (gasoline or diesel). Bi-fuel vehicles give the driver the advantage of being able to fuel up at a natural gas station or a traditional gas station.
Natural gas fuel must be stored on board a vehicle either as compressed natural gas (CNG) or as liquefied natural gas (LNG). CNG is made by compressing natural gas to less than one percent of its volume at standard atmospheric pressure— up to 3,600 pounds per square inch. This ensures enough fuel is onboard for adequate driving range. LNG is cryogenically cooled to a liquid and stored at -260 degrees Fahrenheit. Because heavily insulated tanks must be used for storing LNG, this form of natural gas is typically used with heavy-duty vehicles that can be centrally fueled, like buses, delivery trucks and refuse trucks.
There are many advantages to using natural gas as a transportation fuel:
Xcel Energy currently drives about 50 natural gas powered cars and trucks as part of our fleet. As the NGV market in Wisconsin continues to grow, we now have a compressed natural gas Honda in La Crosse, as well as several vans and pickup trucks. Most of our NGVs are located in Colorado at service centers where on-site fueling equipment is available. In Colorado, we also have vehicles that are equipped with “quick change” cylinders of compressed natural gas that are used to keep pilot lights running during natural gas service repair work.
Our history with natural gas vehicles or NGVs dates back to the 1970s. In Colorado, we committed to build a fueling infrastructure in Denver and formed an unregulated subsidiary, Natural Fuels Corporation, in 1990. Natural Fuels pursued vehicle conversions and maintenance, technical training, unregulated natural gas sales and fueling station construction and maintenance, including an extensive fueling network at Denver International Airport. After operating a decade, Natural Fuels was sold to Clean Fuels, which operates the fueling stations and retail infrastructure today.
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