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to help subsidize the transition, Mr. Tabel explained.
Geography also determines the type of fuel because availability can vary state to state and even city
to city. Some parts of the country provide CNG fueling stations while others offer only LPG. "There are
a lot of factors that go into what the overall costs are
and what the payback would be," Mr. Tabel said.
Isuzu advises bakers to stay with gasoline if they
drive less than 25,000 miles a year. If driving longer
routes more often, the prospect of using alternative
fuels like propane can cut fuel cost and increase miles
per gallon for certain vehicles.
"The key consideration is
that all different alternative
energy systems have
unique and very different
upfront equipment and
Robert McGuire, Alpha Baking Co.
It's impossible to look at alternative fuels and ignore
the rise of electric vehicles (EVs). Mr. Tabel predicted
electric will increase its share of vehicles in commercial
distribution. "Nobody is sure if it will completely take
over, but it is a viable product for the future," he said.
Mercedes-Benz USA tells its customers that fuel
costs, maintenance costs and the vehicle's retained
value can all affect the bottom line of a business.
Its vans like the Metris provide an estimated combined EPA rating of 22 mpg for cargo models. The
7G-Tronic also offers longer service life of up to
15,000-miles service intervals, allowing drivers to
spend more time on the job.
Along with payload and load capacity, the key factors in demand are sustainability and noise reduction, according to a Mercedes-Benz spokesperson.
Frequent stopping, braking and acceleration are the
norm, and that's where battery-electric drive technology thrives. City residents benefit from cleaner air
and less noise, while electric trucks are mostly unaffected by access restrictions.
Lack of infrastructure remains one of the main
challenges EVs face. Technical development of new
electric vans like Mercedes-Benz's eSprinter, which is
in use in Europe but has yet to be confirmed for the
US market, is being accompanied by a comprehensive
approach to the day-to-day applications. For example,
the new concepts for the use of battery-electric vans
also include creation of the necessary charging infrastructure and the integration of electromobility into
existing company procedures.
Alpha Baking has found a way to address that by
working with a specialized provider. The company
invested in Workhorse E-GEN electric trucks from
AMP Holding Inc., and said it is planning to add electric-powered vehicles in the future. The E-GEN step
vans achieved more than 50 miles per gallon equivalent (mpge) fuel efficiency, six times more efficient
than conventional step vans. The electric vehicles
have also reduced emissions by 75%. The vans provide an average range of 125 miles on a single charge,
with 75 miles all-electric utilizing Panasonic Li-Ion
battery packs, and an additional 50 miles using an
integrated BMW range extender. They also feature a
proprietary chassis design, powertrain, battery management system and real-time Metron telematics system for tracking and monitoring.
Forgetting the fears
Initial trepidation with fuels like propane and CNG
centered around the stability of the fuel and where
fuel tanks are located on a vehicle - often on the side
of a chasse. But bakers should fear no more.
"It's a big misnomer that they are big tanks and
that the big tanks can explode," Mr. Tabel said.
"Realistically, that fuel is safer than gasoline from an
The advantages are clear in many instances, and the
use of the fuels over many years now have shown that
CNG and propane are safe fuel sources, Mr. Mouw
said. "Propane autogas is the most advanced for the
commercial segment because the fuel is plentiful,
which drives stable pricing and a very attractive total cost of ownership compared to gas and diesel," Mr.
Mouw said. "Propane companies are willing to install
fueling infrastructure for little to no cost, and very
few, if any, shop modifications need to be made to
work on these vehicles."
Ultimately, LPG and CNG have proven effective
for a variety of applications in distribution vehicles.
However, Mr. McGuire advised companies to do their
research. Look up what types of funding are available.
Communicate with providers of vehicles, get to know
their fuel systems and the maintenance they provide.
"The field of alternative energy is dynamic," he said.
"There are plenty of companies and industry leaders
to provide direction."
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