Piedmont Natural Gas in North Carolina has launched a Green Fleet pilot program, examining natural gas as an alternative to diesel fuel for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in its fleet.

Piedmont kicked off its Green Fleet pilot program by unveiling North Carolina's largest natural gas powered truck - a dump truck powered by natural gas Cummins Westport engine - in a special demonstration at the company's Charlotte operations center. Piedmont will test the truck's performance over the next several months in conjunction with a program sponsored by the North Carolina Solar Center at North Carolina State University.

Piedmont purchased the natural gas powered truck, in part, through a grant from the NCSC under its Clean Fuel Advanced Technology Program, which is supported by funds from the N.C. Department of Transportation, State Energy Office, and Division of Air Quality to directly reduce harmful emissions and provide related educational outreach.

In addition to the natural gas powered truck, the grant from NCSC allowed Piedmont to expand its existing compressed natural gas fueling station. Located at the utility's Charlotte operations center, the fueling station will soon be open to the public and can fuel all types of natural gas vehicles.

"This truck helps marry an environmentally clean and efficient energy source - natural gas - with work-truck capability and performance," said Michael Yount, senior vice president for utility operations, Piedmont Natural Gas. "With an expected vehicle life of six to 10 years, the use of natural gas in an application such as this can help promote significant reductions in a fleet's diesel usage and related emissions such as carbon monoxide, particulates and nitrogen oxide that are harmful to the environment. More importantly, because many fleets have such vehicles in operation, this project could serve as a blueprint for both public and private fleets to adopt a more environmentally proactive approach."

The truck, built by Peterbilt to Piedmont's specifications, employs a Cummins Westport Model ISL G dedicated natural gas engine built at a Cummins plant in North Carolina. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, commercially-available medium and heavy duty natural gas engines reduce carbon monoxide and particulate matter emissions by up to 90 percent, reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 50 percent and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 15 - 20 percent compared to diesel-powered engines.