Green efforts pay off for two Virginia companies

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Print this page by Veronica Garabelli

Two Central Virginia companies are helping state vehicles run on alternative fuels.

The Apple Ford dealership in Lynchburg will provide the commonwealth with pickup trucks able to run on natural gas.  Apple Ford recruited Richmond-based Baker Equipment to help it convert the pickups to compressed natural gas, bi-fuel technology. That term means the vehicles will be able to run on either natural gas or gasoline. Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond was the first to order a bi-fuel CNG pickup truck from Apple Ford. 

“It’s set up so if you have natural gas in your gas tank, it’s going to pick that first so you get your low-cost fuel and lowest emissions,” says Skip Baker, president of Baker Equipment. “If you happen to run out [of natural gas] before filling up again, it’s going to switch and run on gasoline until you can fill back up.” Baker Equipment also converts vehicles to run on diesel and natural gas, a blend called dual-fuel CNG.

“We’re helping them cross over from an all-diesel world to eventually what we think will be an all natural-gas world, but there’s going to be something in between, and that’s where bi-fuel and dual fuel comes in,” Baker says.

Will there be a time when the majority of vehicles run exclusively on natural gas?

“What we understand is most fleets will want to retain about 25 percent of their vehicles in dual fuel because that still gives them the flexibility of two different commodities of fuel,” Baker says.

In addition to converting vehicles to alternative fuel, Baker Equipment also sells and services utility trucks. Although converting vehicles to natural gas makes up less than half their business, “I would say in five years, it’ll probably be equal or more than our core business,” Baker says. The company also recently converted two trucks to dual-fuel CNG for Supervalu, an Eden Prairie, Minn.-based grocery retailer. 

Apple Ford, owned by Nancy Huften, is a female, minority-owned business that serves fleet operators in Virginia. Founded in 1919, Baker Equipment has 20 employees in Richmond, Atlanta and Pottstown, Pa. 

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