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posted: 5/29/2012 12:51 PM

Des Plaines to consider alternative fuel vehicles

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Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan says he would like to see the city's entire fleet of public vehicles eventually powered by alternative fuels, such as compressed natural gas, to be more environmentally friendly and better plan for the future.

"We start slowly upgrading our fleet to natural gas ... it would work better with the ecology of our city," he said.

Moylan's comments came after 6th Ward Alderman Mark Walsten raised the issue at this week's city council meeting while discussing the purchase of a replacement 1-ton cargo van for the city.

Walsten cited the example of Downers Grove, which has a fleet of 30 vehicles that run on compressed natural gas.

In 2007, the Des Plaines council approved purchasing for the city's fleet a Honda Civic that runs on compressed natural gas, Walsten said.

"Not only does it cost much less in fuel costs, but it is much cleaner as far as pollution goes," he said. "Downers Grove is paying an equivalent of 92 cents per gallon (for compressed natural gas) compared to gasoline. They have their own quick fill compressor that they got through a federal and state grant."

City Public Works and Engineering Director Tim Oakley said the compressed natural gas option was too expensive for the cargo van purchase. A gasoline-operated van costs $20,087.

"We looked at an alternative for compressed natural gas. That's an additional $17,852 for that additional equipment," Oakley said.

With unleaded gasoline costing the city $3.56 cents a gallon compared to the cost of compressed natural gas at $2.06 cents a gallon, "In order to recover the additional cost for the compressed natural gas equipment, it would take us 23 years," Oakley said.

Though it was not cost-effective for the van purchase, officials agreed to switch to compressed natural gas vehicles when replacing equipment in the future.

"This technology is getting bigger all the time," Walsten said. "In this particular case, it doesn't make sense. If we had our own quick fill compressor, it probably would make perfect sense. That's really the wave of the future that will bridge us to the next thing to get away from diesel and important oil. It's going to save us a lot of money. It's a no-brainer."

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