CNG garbage trucks in the streets of Lexington
Compressed natural gas is the ideal fuel for garbage removal services. For one, it lowers the costs (both in terms of fuel and maintenance – a methane engine needs no SCR, DPF or other „breath-freshening” technological marvels hidden behind a three-letter abbreviation, including the WTF). It also lowers emissions and, last but not least, it lowers the level of noise. Anyone who has ever been woken up by a working garbage truck is bound to appreciate that and while CNG won't eliminate the noise of trashbins thrashing against the truck's rear in an attempt to empty them properly, a quiter engine is always a change for the better. Bearing that in mind, Lexington's Waste Management Department has just bough 11 CNG-powered refuse trucks.
There’s a lot to like about garbage trucks powered by CNG. They save on fuel costs. They’re quieter as they make their 6 a.m. trips through the neighborhoods. And they’re better for the environment.
Mayor Jim Gray
The vehicles will use their own, publicly unavailable CNG station to refuel. It cost the city 1,25 mln dollars to build the facility, but the money came from a pro-environmental federal grant, so Lexington's budget was not harmed. There are plans to built a public station, too, though. Its prospective users are courier and delivery companies and later on probably also individual drivers. The latter aren't as numerous in the States as they could be, since CNG-powered passenger cars are still few and far between, but that's hopefully about to change sooner rather than later.
Now let's go back to Lexington. The local Waste Management services 96 thousand homes and 3000 businesses weekly, so savings coming from the diesel-to-CNG switch are bound to become visible rather quickly. It is estimated that each methane-powered refuse truck will generate a cost lower by 6500 dollars compared to a diesel counterpart, including not only fuel expenses (CNG is cheaper by approx. 1,5-2 dollars per diesel gallon equivalent), but also maintenance. Importantly enough, the city won't need to wait to harvest the savings – at some 350 thousand dollars a piece, CNG vehicles aren't really more expensive than diesels (plus they have roughly the same cruising range and performance), so they will start saving Lexington's money right from day one, without the need to break even first.
Buying the trucks isn't much of an investment, either, since the city was going to replace some older vehicles with new ones anyway. The eleven freshly delivered ones will be joined by another two by the end of 2014, while there are already plans to buy 10-12 more across 2015 (2,9 million dollars has already been put aside in the budget). They sure know what they're doing, for it has been determined that swapping diesels for trucks running on CNG extends maintenance and oil change intervals significantly. And it results in cutting down CO2 emissions by some 20-30%. In fact, Lexington is not the first fried-chicken-state city to switch to natural gas as fuel for its garbage removal fleet, as it treads in the footsteps of Louisville and Princeton. And we bet it's not the last one to adopt CNG, either...
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