Philly officials weigh investment in alternative fuel vehicles

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Philadelphia officials are considering replacing the city’s fleet of vehicles with one running on compressed natural gas. Environmental activists are not convinced it’s a good idea.

Philadelphia has 5,800 vehicles, many of them old enough to require replacement. That could be an opportunity to make the switch to vehicles powered by natural gas, said Councilman David Oh.

Philadelphia fleet manager Chris Cocci said he would not want to use natural gas for police cruisers or fire trucks, though he’s open to it for other purposes.

“We do not want to put any public health and safety vehicles relative to the fire department or the police department in that arena,” he said. “We believe the technology, as far as refuse vehicles, is well advanced and could sustain it.”

Proponents told City Council compressed natural gas is an economical alternative costing about a dollar less per gallon that gasoline.

But Sandra Folzer, an activist against natural gas drilling, testified that savings could evaporate.

“There are many hidden costs, they don’t get as much mileage, they use at least 10 percent more fuel per vehicle, so that is more of an expense,” she said.

CNG vehicles still pollute less, but the edge over cars powered by gasoline has narrowed as their emissions improve, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

City Council has not yet taken action on whether to make the switch.

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