LOS ANGELES - Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) announced plans Nov. 21 to add approximately 1,000 new natural gas-powered trucks to its fleet over the next five years. Residential energy service technicians will be driving the trucks as part of the utility's "green" fleet replacement program.

The utility will purchase new natural gas-powered trucks from original equipment manufacturers, as well as custom-built natural gas vehicles, through a collaborative effort with local Southern California companies. SoCalGas currently operates approximately 1,000 natural gas vehicles in its fleet.

This year, for example, the first of 50 custom-built 2011 Chevrolet Silverado trucks are in use in southern California. Working with Torrance-based Landi Renzo USA, Royal Truck Bodies and Wondries Fleet Group, the trucks are equipped with Landi Renzo/Baytech compressed natural gas fuel systems that are approved by the California Air Resources Board.  

"Natural gas vehicles are a real transportation solution today," said Hal Snyder, vice president of customer solutions at SoCalGas, in a release. "Natural gas is the ideal fuel for transportation because it's abundant, affordable, clean, and produced domestically, and can serve all segments of the transportation industry. As we work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our fleet, we encourage the automakers and after-market companies to produce natural gas vehicles, an effort that will result in significant air quality and cost benefits to customers and the region."

SoCalGas plans to expand over the next few years all of its 13 company-owned public-access compressed natural gas (CNG) stations. At its Riverside refueling station, SoCalGas is field testing a new modular CNG "fueling station in a box" technology that takes 20-percent less space and can be installed faster than traditional facilities with separate components installed on the site, thereby offering the potential to significantly reduce capital cost and construction time, according to the utility.

SoCalGas also is a member of a national collaborative, called "Drive Natural Gas Initiative," made up of North American natural gas utilities and producers focused on advancing natural gas as a fuel for all sectors of transportation, including cars, trucks, buses, and marine and mining equipment.