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OSU moves forward with CNG plans; Board approves purchase of 10 alternative fuel sedans

Friday, October 24, 2008

(WARNER, Ok. Oct. 24, 2008) -- The OSU/A&M Board of Regents approved a request Friday for Oklahoma State University’s Transportation Services to purchase 10 alternative fuel sedans in the estimated amount of $160,500.

The new vehicles, all 2009 Chevrolet Impalas with the compressed natural gas (CNG) conversion option, will be used locally and for trips ranging under 250 miles, according to Chris Hoffman, manager of Transportation Services.

The Impalas will not come from the factory with the CNG package, but an original equipment manufacturer in Oklahoma will do the conversion, he said.

According to Hoffman, the cost of compressed natural gas is currently about $1.30 to $1.40 a gallon, or approximately a dollar less that the current price of unleaded gasoline.

“The cost of CNG is not expected to be as volatile as gasoline, so we expect the purchase price for fuel to stay relatively the same,” he said.

OSU is working on plans to build a compressed natural gas fueling station on campus.  The university also is exploring the purchase of CNG busses for the Stillwater campus.

“OSU plans to make the fueling station accessible to the public and hopes to encourage

local agencies and residents to purchase CNG powered vehicles,” Hoffman said. “The CNG refueling station will be self-serving and people will be able to access it with a card.”

According to Hoffman, OSU plans to expand its CNG fleet by evaluating all new vehicle purchases and replacing vehicles that can potentially utilize compressed natural gas. It will also require new vehicle purchases to be capable of using an alternative fuel unless the vehicle qualifies for an exception due to vehicle requirements and alternative fuel vehicle availability.

The university currently has no hybrid vehicles, Hoffman said, but he expects OSU to have some in the future.

“One of the most significant things we’ll be accomplishing at OSU is becoming more environmentally conscious and cutting down on our greenhouse gas emissions,” Hoffman said.

An all-electric low-speed vehicle has been added to the Motor Pool fleet to promote and encourage departments that use small utility vehicles to purchase or lease plug-in, fully electric vehicles. A small electric pickup, a demo, is on campus to give departments that use utility vehicles an opportunity to test it, Hoffman said.

For the past two weeks, Kent Sampson, director of Campus Life, has been testing the university’s small electrical car on campus at the request of Hoffman. The car, about the size of a boxy Volkswagen, is made by Miles Co.

“One of the real changes in driving it is that it is so quiet, you don’t think it’s running,” Sampson said. “It’s unnerving at first.”

The night before Homecoming Walkaround, Sampson took OSU President Burns Hargis and his wife Ann around the campus to watch the pomping and decorations going up. “It draws a lot of attention. People notice it and everyone wants to drive it,” he said.

The electrical car can comfortably seat four, and has a small trunk space. With a top speed of 30-35 mph, it can run for about six hours on a six-hour recharge using a regular 110 extension cord.

“I think it has its place on campus, with its speed limitations and certainly from the standpoint of the environment and pollution,” Sampson said.

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