Before implementing alternative fuels, fleets must be sure to fully understand the training, maintenance and education that may be required to make the new fleet truly successful.
1. Initial Cost
The initial cost of an alternative fuel vehicle can be slightly more, in addition to the costs for fueling stations, maintenance equipment, training and possibly new staff. It is wise to also consider possible government grants and tax breaks in the total cost of ownership savings that the fleet will yield down the road.
2. Fueling Stations
For CNG engines, the garage will definitely need to install a CNG fueling station to fill the buses or trucks, unless there are fueling stations nearby.
• CNG fueling stations come in two varieties: slow-fill and fast-fill.
• The cost for a propane station can be significantly lower than the cost of a CNG station.
• Even operators of hybrid/electric vehicles need to plan for fueling. Hybrids typically run on diesel. However, fleets with hybrids that are charged through a plug will require power poles for recharging.
3. Key Maintenance Differences
Most fleets want to know about fuel savings associated with alternative fuels. Technicians, on the other hand, want to know what it takes to maintain alternative fuel vehicles to keep them up and running.
• Hybrid: For hybrid engines, technicians must know and understand how the hybrid system works and what safety precautions to keep in mind around high-voltage systems. However, because a hybrid bus or truck runs off a manual transmission that has been automated, there are only minor maintenance requirements aside from changing clutches, air filters and adding coolant.
• Propane: Propane engines are maintained in the same way as gasoline engines and utilize many of the same components. As with CNG, fuel system filtration is key to getting good performance. The spark plugs also must be changed regularly.
4. Safety Precautions
One of the biggest safety concerns with alternative fuels is a fuel leak on a CNG- or propane-powered vehicle. In the event of a leak, each fuel reacts in a different way.
5. Shop Improvements
When using alternative fuels, some shop improvements must be made as well. Fleets must check with local agencies to see if particular standards are required.
6. Shop Heat
Many garages today use heaters in their workspace. CNG engines, however, cannot be serviced when there is an open flame, gas or pilot heater in the shop because of a potential leak.