Lawrence City Hall’s great gas experiment soon may be moving into a new phase, courtesy of federal stimulus funding.
City commissioners at a special year-end meeting Thursday morning are expected to apply for about $162,000 in grant money to equip three new city vehicles to run on compressed natural gas and to build two compressed natural gas fueling stations.
“What we’re trying to do is see how the performance of these vehicles stacks up,” said Chuck Soules, the city’s director of public works. “You can get a lot of numbers about the vehicles, but that doesn’t replace what you can learn through real-world experience with them.”
This latest round of testing comes after the city in June began using an F-150 Ford pickup truck that runs off of compressed natural gas. The city uses a fueling station owned by Black Hills Energy near Eighth and Pennsylvania streets.
If awarded the grant money, the city will be able to experiment with different types of vehicles. The city is proposing to equip a street sweeper, a residential trash truck and a commercial trash truck with the CNG technology. Adding the CNG equipment to the vehicles increases the cost of each vehicle by $30,000 to $60,000, but the grant money pays 100 percent of the cost to upgrade.
The grant also will pay 50 percent of the costs to install compressed natural gas fueling stations. The city is proposing to install two of the units at the city maintenance and solid waste division areas near 11th and Haskell.
The fueling stations, however, won’t be the high-tech, quick fueling stations that fill a vehicle in a matter of minutes. Instead, each fueling station will take about eight hours to fill a vehicle. The fueling stations are designed to allow vehicles to be fueled overnight.
The fueling stations will cost about $30,000 apiece, with the grant money covering half the costs. Soules said the quicker, “fast-fueling” stations can easily cost upwards of $500,000. Soules said the city wants to learn more about the feasibility of CNG vehicles before investing in that heavy-duty infrastructure.
The city previously has explored partnering with Zarco Inc., the Lawrence-based gas station company, which has expressed an interest in installing a CNG fueling station at Ninth and Iowa streets.
But Zarco leaders have said they likely will need a large user, like the city or the university, to convert its fleet to CNG before the project would be feasible.
Soules said the city doesn’t yet have the information it needs to do that.
“A lot really will depend on what we learn about these performance issues,” Soules said.
The city is applying for the money through a program administered through the Kansas City Region Clean Cities Coalition. The group received money through the 2009 federal stimulus program, but is seeking a new round of applications from area cities because several projects weren’t completed under the original round of funding.
If the city wins funding, Soules estimated the new fueling stations could be installed by June.
City commissioners will meet at 9 a.m. Thursday at City Hall.