Ginn Motor Company owner Billy Fortson hands over the keys to the city’s new CNG vehicles to Councilman Chris Smith. Also pictured are Ginn Motor General Manager Tim Cartledge, far left, and Deputy City Manager Billy Bouchillon. (Special Photo)
COVINGTON — The city of Covington is making strides toward diversifying its fuel sources by purchasing five compressed natural gas trucks from Ginn Motor Company.
The Ram 2500 Crew Cab four-wheel drive trucks are actually bi-fuel, meaning they run on both gasoline and compressed natural gas. They will be used by the engineering, water and electric departments, and two trucks will go to the Covington Police Department. The CPD, which currently has no four-wheel drive vehicles, sometimes has to borrow trucks to haul away evidence from a crime scene or barricades to and from special events, said Financial Coordinator Randy Conner, who is overseeing the city’s CNG projects, including construction of a CNG fueling station slated to open early next year. The trucks will run on gas until the CNG station is completed.
The trucks retail for around $52,900. The city paid about $35,250 per truck, Conner said. Typically, an investment in a CNG vehicle is recouped at about 60,000 miles, but the city will recoup its investment much faster, based on that purchase price, he said.
Ginn Motor General Manager Tim Cartledge said Ginn has sold one other CNG vehicle besides the ones purchased by the city and currently has two more on the lot. He said demand will increase once more fueling stations are built. There are several CNG stations in Atlanta. Covington will be the first municipality to open a public-access station in the state. Another obstacle is getting technicians trained to work on the vehicles. The city will have a certified technician who can maintain the vehicles.
The city has applied for a grant through the Atlanta Regional Commission Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program to replace a portion of its fleet with CNG vehicles over the next two years. The county and school system are included in the grant application.
“I feel like for our fleet, the county and the Board of Education, natural gas, for as much fuel as we use, it’s a no-brainer,” Conner said.
The city, county and school system together use almost 1.4 million gallons of fuel each year, he said. If costs could be cut just 25 percent, that would be a significant savings, he said.
Conner said if half the school system’s fleet were replaced by CNG buses, $8 million in fuel costs could be saved over the life of the buses.
The city currently has one other CNG vehicle, used by the engineering department, and one on order for the fire chief, Conner said. Funds have already been allocated to purchase a CNG-fueled garbage truck and gas maintenance vehicle, he said.
CNG garbage trucks run between $20,000 and $30,000 more than their diesel counterparts, but the cost can be recouped in four years, he said.
Conner said it’s not as cost-effective to convert existing vehicles as to replace them due to the mileage on much of the city’s fleet.
Conner said construction on the CNG facility is ahead of schedule and it may open before the projected date of April 2014. Located at the corner of City Pond Road and Alcovy Road, the station will be open to the public.