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Wyoming officials now know how much it will cost to buy compressed natural gas-powered vehicles off the line.

The state selected winning bids from a July request for proposal, Gov. Matt Mead announced Monday. Most CNG-powered vehicle models requested by the state are priced at around $33,000.

In July, more than 20 states asked local dealers to submit bids. Wyoming chose to work with three dealerships licensed in Wyoming: Fremont Motor Company and Fremont Chevrolet-GMC, both in Lander, and Spradley Barr in Cheyenne.

Monday’s announcement doesn’t mean the state has committed to making any purchases.

“This is to see what the private market’s response would be for a request like this,” said Renny MacKay, Mead’s communications director, adding that natural gas vehicles fit into the governor’s as-yet-unreleased state energy plan.

Mead could choose to add natural gas-powered vehicle purchases to his proposed budget, as could the Wyoming Legislature. Until then, the state won’t enter into any purchase contracts.

The vehicles could pay off for the state in the long run, Mead said Monday. The vehicles get about the same per-gallon mileage as gasoline-fueled vehicles, but CNG is cheaper, costing the equivalent of about $2.14 per gallon as of Sunday.

“This initiative makes a lot of sense for Wyoming,” Mead said in a media release. “It allows us to get a sense of where the market stands on natural gas vehicles, because this has to be a market-based effort.”

The state selected bids on nine vehicles in all, three from each dealer. Values of the vehicles range from slightly more than $30,000 to just less than $38,000, depending on cab size and other specifications. Models to be purchased include the Ford E350 van, the Ford F350 truck, the Chevrolet Silverado and the Chevrolet Express cargo van. Some vehicles could run solely on natural gas, but others would feature a bi-fuel option allowing drivers to choose either gasoline or CNG as fuel of choice.

This is far from the state’s first foray into funding the alternative vehicle fuel. Lawmakers last year approved a $200,000 pilot project to retrofit existing vehicles to burn CNG. The legislation has also showed interest in funding further conversions and a filling station at the University of Wyoming.

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In September, the state Legislature’s Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee formed a subcommittee to draft a bill which would provide incentives for companies to add CNG filling stations and fuel conversions for governmental bodies around the state. The draft bill is expected to be reviewed at a meeting next week.

But CNG has yet to take off as a fuel in Wyoming. There are only four public stations in Wyoming, with three more planned. The Wyoming Natural Gas Vehicle Infrastructure Coalition, an industry- and nonprofit-led group, wants to set up 12 more stations around the state.

Twenty-two states received bids on vehicle purchases. Mead hopes the numbers will help strengthen the market.

“Having so many states involved provides more incentive for the private market to build up the natural gas fueling infrastructure,” he said. “That infrastructure and the confirmed demand from states should make more natural gas vehicles available to the general public, too.”

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Reach energy reporter Adam Voge at 307-266-0561, or at adam.voge@trib.com. Read his blog at http://trib.com/news/opinion/blogs/boom or follow him on Twitter @vogeCST.

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