Knoxville hosts alt fuel rally

KNOXVILLE – Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) hosted a stop on the second annual ‘From Sea-to- Shining-Sea’ Natural Gas Vehicle (NGV) Road Rally Across America, a nationwide initiative highlighting the many benefits of using natural gas in transportation and the wide variety of vehicles currently operating on natural gas.

The spectrum of rally vehicles – ranging from a sedan to Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) 3D-printed utility vehicle – illustrated the diverse private and commercial uses of clean-burning CNG.

Presented by NGVAmerica, American Public Gas Association (APGA) and American Gas Association (AGA), the rally launched outside of Long Beach, California, on June 5, and will conclude in Washington, D.C., on June 16. The journey includes 18 stops and covers 4,825 miles, demonstrating the growing availability of natural gas fueling stations across the country.

The event took place at KUB’s recently opened, publicly accessible compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station at 1820 Third Creek Road in Knoxville. The station began fueling KUB’s CNG fleet in November 2016 and celebrated its grand opening for public use in April.

“We are honored to host this rally to encourage and celebrate the use of clean burning natural gas in vehicles throughout our nation,” KUB President and CEO Mintha Roach said. “It is exciting to see the variety of vehicles today from organizations that share KUB’s commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability.”

Roach announced during the program that KUB’s fleet this year earned Tennessee Green Fleet certification from the Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition. The program certifies fleets based on actual impacts and other actions taken to improve fleet sustainability and efficiency. KUB’s fleet began using CNG in the 1970s and now also includes vehicles powered by electric hybrid technology, E85 flex fuel and biodiesel.

A variety of alternative fuel vehicles from KUB, Sevier County Utility District, Gibson County Utility District, Middle Tennessee Natural Gas and Johnston North America fleets were on display at the rally, illustrating that any fleet can reap the cost and environmental benefits of CNG.

At the event, KUB presented the City of Knoxville with the First Fleet Award to recognize the city’s status as the CNG fueling station’s first fleet customer and for its leadership in alternative fuel use.

“As a local government, we seek to lead by example and show how practical, cost-saving investments can benefit our environment and the sustainability of our community,” Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said. “We thank KUB for setting an example for our community through a longtime commitment to sustainable practices.”

ORNL presented a look at the future with its 3D-printed utility vehicle, a natural-gas- powered hybrid electric vehicle using bi-directional wireless charging for a new approach to energy use and storage. Researchers at the lab’s National Transportation Research Center are examining new and innovative ways to maximize energy efficiency through transformative science and integrated technology solutions.

The Tennessee Call 811 hot air balloon also was on hand to support the event. The balloon travels the country as a reminder of the importance of calling 811 before digging to avoid accidental damage to underground utility lines, including natural gas lines.

CNG is an environmentally friendly gasoline and diesel alternative made by compressing natural gas to less than 1 percent of its volume at standard atmospheric pressure. Costing about half as much as gasoline or diesel fuel and releasing about 90 percent fewer emissions, CNG protects the environment and makes driving more affordable.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero accepts from KUB President and CEO Mintha Roach the First Fleet Award at KUB’s publicly accessible compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station on June 13, 2017. The presentation acknowledges the city’s leadership in alternative fuel use and was part of the “From-Sea- to-Shining- Sea” Natural Gas Vehicle Road Rally Across America. Photo submitted.