FCTC to provide training courses in natural gas vehicles

April 17, 2015. As St. Johns County Fleet Maintenance (Florida) transitions to vehicles that run on compressed natural gas (CNG), employees will need to figure out how they work.

   First Coast Technical College (FCTC) will provide short-term training courses in natural gas vehicles starting next week. “It’s convenient for us, and it’s great having a partnership keeping everything within the county,” said Jeff Nordsiek, fleet manager for St. Johns County who also serves on FCTC’s board for alternative fuels. He said the county will send three technicians through the first round of training courses.

   There are 10 technicians who work in fleet management, and Nordsiek said they will all need the certification. He said inspections could then be done in-house and technicians will have a better idea of the systems they’re working with.

   Nordsiek estimated the savings of switching to CNG to be about $5 million over the next 20 years. The county researched CNG for nearly three years.

   A CNG fueling station to be located near the Public Works facility at State Road 16 and Industry Drive is under construction. But infrastructure is only half the battle.

   The North Florida Transportation Planning Organization is providing a $734,000 grant to convert engines using gasoline or diesel to those run by CNG fuel cells. House Bill 579 also reimburses conversions up to 50 percent.

   Nordsiek said the fleet plans to have 130 vehicles with CNG capabilities by the end of the year, when construction of the fueling station is expected to be finished.

   The county has completed conversions in three vehicles. Another 13 are having the systems installed.

   For reasons of practicality, county vehicles would actually be dual-fuel, running on diesel and CNG. It costs about $9,150 per vehicle conversion, which is typically completed within one week.