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Making Moves: National Park ‘Greens’ Fleet with Propane Trucks, Fueling Stations

By Lauren Tyler

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park hosted a celebration yesterday to unveil six new propane-fueled trucks and two new propane fueling stations at the Park Headquarters Maintenance Facility near Gatlinburg, Tenn.

With the new pieces of alternative fuel equipment, the Smokies implemented a new facet of the park’s Climate Friendly Parks program through funding from a joint U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and Department of Energy (DOE) initiative called the “Clean Cities National Park Initiative.”

As reported, the new equipment helps the park leave a smaller carbon footprint.

In partnership with its two neighboring DOE Clean Cities coalitions, the East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition and the Land of Sky Clean Vehicles Coalition, the park installed the two propane fueling systems and added six new pieces of “green” equipment to improve air quality.

Six Ford F250 crew cab trucks were purchased and converted to run on propane autogas. The park chose Icom North America’s liquid-injection system and learned how to install and maintain those systems, with assistance from Icom’s southeastern representative, David Griffin.

“We continue to work towards meeting our goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from 2006 levels by 20 percent by 2020,” says Park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “We appreciate the support of our partners that have moved us another step closer to achieving that goal. These improvements, along with the recent addition of propane mowers, electric vehicles and DC fast-charge stations, enable us to be better stewards of this special place.”

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Easy Tennessee Clean Fuels Director Jonathan Overly says, “Propane work trucks are becoming a hot item with NPS units across the country. The combination of the emissions reductions and cost savings help the Smokies and other parks build out their Climate Friendly Parks program while saving money.”

“We are saving about $0.30 to $0.50 per gallon using propane,” says Smokies Deputy Chief of Facility Management Brian Bergsma. “In addition to saving money, we have also doubled the driving range of the trucks and saved time by being able to refuel propane mower equipment on-site.”

As reported, one propane refueling system is at the North District Maintenance Facility near Gatlinburg, while the other is in the South District Maintenance Facility in Cherokee. The trucks (and mowers) can refuel at either location and are in use on both sides of the park.

Blossman Gas and Sevier County Propane, respectively, are the propane supply partners on the North Carolina and Tennessee sides of the park.

The joint DOI/DOE funding is helping multiple national parks across the country to advance their goals of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from park operations and maintenance vehicles and improving air quality overall in and around the parks.

Photos courtesy of the East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition – A refueling demonstration was provided that included showing how the refueling equipment works and what safety features are incorporated into the system. The purchased and converted vehicles were all Ford F250s that are utilizing Icom North America’s bi-fuel, liquid-injection propane system.