Interstate 75 in Florida, one of the well-traveled routes to Disney World and just about every other important destination in the state, is now playing host to its fourth public compressed natural gas fueling station.
The two-pump station off Exit 382 is the first of its kind in Gainesville and was opened recently by WCA Waste Corporation, which has converted most of its refuse trucks to run on CNG, according to the Gainesville Sun.
The Florida Natural Gas Association reports that the market for natural gas auto fuel in the nation’s third most populated state is rapidly changing. In 2011, there were only two public CNG stations. Now, there are 30-plus stations “with plenty more in the works.”
However, since opening in early December, business has been slow at WCA’s Gainesville station, reports WCA General Manager Bob Mathis. It’s not for lack of trying. The station is open 24/7 and accepts all major credit and fleet cards. It’s also easy to find on websites offering CNG fueling locations.
To date, regular customers include Gainesville Regional Utilities trucks, two University of Florida vehicles (WCA is the official sustainability partner of UF) and a CNG-converted 1968 Cadillac.
In addition, two to four vehicles a day make their way to the station from I-75, which mostly include commercial pickups and cars.
WCA remains hopeful. They have another CNG station nearby that they use to fuel their growing fleet of CNG waste haulers. They’re proud of the fuel’s impressive emissions ratings, which has 80 percent fewer ozone-forming emissions than gasoline vehicles, according to the company’s press release.
“We are proud to offer the residents and businesses of Florida a cleaner fuel alternative in transportation to reduce green house emissions and improve air quality throughout the region,” Bob Shires, WCA regional vice president, states in the Dec. 2 press release.
Other public CNG pumps along I-75, according to the Florida Natural Gas Association, include two stations in Ocala and one in Tampa.
While commercial fleets have caught on, increased vehicle cost, a reduced driving range and scarce availability of CNG pumps have kept most consumers from buying natural gas vehicles. Also, lower oil prices now make unleaded gas a better deal by about 50 cents per gallon equivalent.
Nonetheless, with greater domestic availability (natural gas can even be collected from landfills), less market volatility and cleaner emissions, automakers, fleets and consumers are continuing to warm up to CNG.
This year, the first Ford F-150 CNG bi-fuel truck rolled off the assembly line. The specially engineered engine, with its ability to accept either CNG or gasoline, has an impressive driving range of 750 miles on combined tanks. Range like that can help bridge the gap between work, CNG stations and Disney World.