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Kanawha poised for conversion to alternative fuel sources

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper hopes to continue to convert part of the county's fleet of vehicles to alternative fuels.

Carper will recommend the county purchase another five, and possibly more, alternative fuel vehicles during the commission meeting Thursday, he said.

The county needs to purchase new vehicles under its replacement program anyway, Carper said.

"I think it only makes sense for the county to continue with the Kanawha Converts program," he said.

He was referring to a consortium of public agencies, including the county commission, the Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority and the Charleston Area Alliance, and private businesses that are pledging to convert at least some of their vehicles.

The county already has purchased a compressed natural gas SUV for its Homeland Security and Emergency Management office. KRT has committed to purchasing eight buses to be powered by compressed natural gas.

Officials with Ohio-based IGS Energy-CNG Services recently announced the company would soon begin building a compressed natural gas filling station next to the Foodland store on Spring Street on Charleston's West Side.

The station will cost about $2.5 million.

Carper said all of these factors indicate it's a good time for the county to purchase additional vehicles.

The assessor's office may replace four of its gasoline-powered vehicles with ones powered by natural gas, said Matt Thomas, Kanawha County economic development coordinator.

Thomas wasn't sure how much they would cost but said, "I should have those numbers by the time we meet on Thursday."

The county also may buy an SUV or van for the sheriff's department to use for mental hygiene checks, Carper said.

Compressed natural gas is 30 to 50 percent cheaper than traditional fuels like gasoline and diesel.

That would allow the county to realize significant savings from using compressed natural gas, or even propane, for vehicles that are not used during emergencies, Carper said.

The SUV or van would be a bi-fuel vehicle, meaning it could be powered using compressed natural gas or gasoline, Thomas said.

A cargo van that could be used for mental hygiene checks could cost about $18,000, he said. It would cost another $12,000 to have the vehicle converted to run on compressed natural gas.

The county also may convert a Ford F-150 pickup truck used by the maintenance department to run on propane, Carper said.

He would like for the county to have at least one vehicle powered by propane to see how it stacks up against the compressed natural gas vehicles, he said.

It would cost about $10,000 to convert the vehicle, and the county could apply for a grant through Triana Energy to pay for that, Thomas said.

"We would pay the cost upfront and then be reimbursed," he said.

A propane fueling station soon will be installed at an existing gas station at the corner of Florida Street and Kanawha Boulevard, Carper said.

However, propane vehicles have one drawback, he said. The propane is not refined in West Virginia. The natural gas used for vehicles is extracted from wells within the Mountain State, Carper said.

However, he thinks propane will be refined in the state once more vehicles are converted and begin using the fuel.

The commission will meet in the Kanawha County Courthouse starting at 5 p.m. Thursday.       

Contact writer Paul Fallon at or 304-348-4817. Follow him at



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