Commercial customers who lease or rent commercial cargo trucks from Penske Truck Leasing Co. LP will soon have a chance to sit behind the wheel of a vehicle powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) instead of diesel or gasoline.
Under a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Reading, Pa.-based company will introduce alternative-fueled vehicles to its cargo-hauling customer base. Penske is extending the offer to both individual drivers and fleets under the company's new Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) project.
"This grant will allow fleets to experience alternatively fueled vehicles at a reduced cost," said Matt Krasney, Penske's director of alternative fuels, in a statement. The program will address a restraint on the rollout of cleaner-burning fuels—users' lack of familiarity with natural gas, Krasney said. "We plan to target customers who currently don't have natural gas equipment because they may have been deterred by the high vehicle cost and lack of information," Krasney said. "Penske will walk them through the process, step by step."
Natural gas is cheaper and more environmentally friendly than diesel fuel, and it is produced in North America rather than imported from geopolitically volatile regions. However, its rollout in commercial trucking has been hamstrung by a limited vehicle re-fueling infrastructure, a lack of available vehicles, and a shorter driving range compared to similar diesel trucks. Proponents are addressing these challenges by working to tap into the country's extensive natural gas distribution system, adding extra natural gas storage tanks to extend driving range, and designing dual-fuel engines that burn both fossil and renewable fuels.