Local News

June 6, 2013

Dalton gets a look at alternative fuel vehicles

Lights. Sirens. Propane tank?

Norcross-based Force 911 specializes in converting gasoline-powered vehicles to propane, and it has converted the fleets of more than a dozen law enforcement agencies across Georgia.

“We got started in the law enforcement business, but we now work with all sorts of fleets,” said Director of Marketing Amy McChesney.

Force 911 and its partner Alliance AutoGas were among about a dozen different companies and agencies taking part in the Georgia Alternative Fueled Vehicle Roadshow Wednesday at the trade center.

“One of the first advantages of propane is that it is cleaner. It emits fewer emissions,” McChesney said. “It is also substantially cheaper from a fuel perspective. The price of propane fluctuates, but it is typically 30 to 40 percent cheaper than gasoline.”

Steve Whaley of Alliance AutoGas said propane is the third most popular automobile fuel in the world, with 18 million vehicles worldwide and 200,000 in the United States running on propane. Whaley said if Alliance converts a company’s or agency’s fleet to propane there is no extra cost for installing a fuel station at the fleet’s base.

Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols organized the roadshow, which is traveling across the state. Echols has long been a proponent and driver of alternative fuel vehicles, saying they reduce emissions and cut America’s dependence on foreign oil.

Echols said Dalton area carpet companies are interested in switching to alternative fuels because that could save them money. But the lack of infrastructure is holding them back.

“And my interest is in getting trucks to the (Port of Savannah) using something other than diesel,” he said. “What we have to do is make sure there is a corridor where their drivers can get fuel. We’ve got a LNG (liquefied natural gas) station coming here at Carbondale. We’ve got a new LNG station in Atlanta, near the airport. That’s not the greatest location. It needs to really be right on the interstate. We need something in Dublin, and we need something in Savannah.”

Clean Energy Fuels Corp., based in California, has announced plans to build a national network of LNG fueling stations, including one at the Pilot Travel Center at Carbondale.

“That’s not something the Public Service Commission can pay for. But it’s certainly something I can use my influence around the state to encourage,” Echols said.

Dalton Mayor David Pennington said the local carpet industry has been on the cutting edge of manufacturing innovations that cut costs while improving the environment, whether it is recycling plastic bottles into materials for carpet or burning carpet waste for energy.

Dan Geller, a public service assistant at the University of Georgia’s College of Engineering, said the school has a strong research effort focused on alternative fuels. It is looking at ways to produce biodiesel from trees. It is also looking at ways to produce biodiesel from algae. One of those algae projects is on Dalton Utilities’ land application system site in Murray County, where the utility and the university are looking at ways to turn algae in wastewater into biodiesel.

“The price point isn’t right yet. We have the capability. Now, we are working on making it cheaper,” he said.

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