Centre County approves contract to convert vehicles to natural gas

The county’s dream of starting a natural gas vehicle fleet is starting to come to fruition.

The Board of Commissioners approved a contract with Clean Vehicle Solutions to convert four vans to compressed natural gas fuel. The total cost of the conversions is a little more than $105,000, with half the funding coming from the state and half coming from the county.

Commissioner Chris Exarchos said the county portion likely will be paid for using Act 13 Marcellus Shale impact fee money. He said he is excited that they will be able to get the conversions started.

“I think it’s not only going to save money for the county in terms of fuel costs, we’ll extend the life of these vehicles because natural gas engines tend to last longer,” he said, adding that the fuel burns cleaner, which will help the environment.

The vans will go into the transportation fleet to be used for programs such as transporting elderly residents.

The investment to convert the vehicles will be paid off in two to three years, and the county will save about $1 per gallon on fuel costs going forward, Commissioner Michael Pipe said. He said it’s a good use of Act 13 money because it allows for reinvestment into the industry and helps the county become more efficient.

For now, the county will work out a deal with the Centre Area Transportation Authority to use its Ferguson Township fueling station, but Exarchos said they will be working on a public-private partnership for others. He said he can’t release any details at this time.

Exarchos said he would eventually like as many vehicles converted as possible when the grant funding becomes available. He said he hopes they are able to convert another batch of about four vehicles next year.