URTA adds alternative-fuel vans Transports run on natural gas

July 22, 1993|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Staff Writer

The Urban Rural Transportation Alliance yesterday showed off two new, natural gas-powered Dodge vans, which will join a fleet of 20 other vans and mini-buses in transporting elderly, disabled and low-income citizens.

Gary Thorpe of the Maryland Energy Administration presented a $4,000 check to URTA Executive Director Janet McGlynn to help pay for the 1994 eight-passenger vans.

Each of the blue and white vans cost about $19,000, with a little over $3,700 of that needed to convert the gas tank and carburetor to natural gas use.

Howard County contributed more than half of the money for the two vans, and the Columbia Foundation and the Maryland Energy Administration were also major contributors.

At the Department of Citizen Services gathering, County Executive Charles I. Ecker spoke about the importance of using alternative-fuel vehicles today and in the future.

According to Carl Gaites, URTA assistant executive director, the nonprofit group chose to buy natural gas-powered vehicles primarily because of stipulations in the federal Clean Air Act that require companies with fleets of 10 or more cars to convert 30 percent of their fleet to alternative-fuel vehicles by 1998.

"The cleanest emissions car is electric, and not far behind that is natural gas," Mr. Gaites said.

"The fuel is cheaper than gasoline," said Edwin W. Skoglin 3rd, manager of marketing and energy services for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. "Gasoline is about $1.15, and natural gas is about 85 cents a gallon."

Mr. Skoglin said that the large fuel tanks, which can take up about one-third of the trunk space in a car and may weigh up to 160 pounds, are a drawback to the use of natural gas, but he's optimistic that technology will conquer this problem.

"I really think one day they'll start to incorporate the tank into the car," he said. Some manufacturers have begun to produce lighter tanks.

The two vans are among about 200 natural gas-powered vehicles in the state.

Baltimore Gas and Electric owns 120, and the state, Baltimore County, Westinghouse, and C&P Telephone also own natural gas-powered vehicles.

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