Alternative Fuel Vehicle Program

Last updated Nov. 11, 2017 - 9:41 am
R-Line Bus

The City of Raleigh is actively encouraging and accelerating the use of alternative fuel vehicles within the City by creating partnerships to develop a market and supporting infrastructure for alternative fuel vehicles.

Alternative fuel vehicles help reduce automobile emissions, promote domestic energy production, improve air quality, and help decrease fuel costs. The City of Raleigh has used alternative fuel vehicles in its fleet of automobiles since 2002. Currently, the City has approximately 461 alternative fuel vehicles among its fleet using fuels that include propane, compressed natural gas (CNG), electric, and biofuels (B5, B20, E85).

The majority of these are flex fuel vehicles that use both regular unleaded fuels and alternative fuels, such as ethanol (E85 blend). The City also has automobiles that are powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) or electricity. In the 2010 fiscal year, the City acquired 16 hybrid compact sedans and sport utility vehicles (SUVs), bringing the City's total number of hybrid vehicles to 67. Additionally, the City has been operating at least 75 percent of its diesel fleet -- or 186 trash collection trucks, recycling trucks and street dump trucks -- on biodiesel fuel (B20) since January 2002. B20 is a domestically produced renewable fuel derived from vegetable oil that significantly reduces harmful elements of diesel exhaust, such as carbon monoxide.


Propane Police Vehicle

In August 2011, the City up-fitted ten police cars with duel fuels, utilizing both gasoline and propane with funding from the Triangle Clean Cities Coalition. In 2012 after an overall positive response from officers, ten additional police cars were up-fitted as well with funding from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, propane can provide lower maintenance costs, higher octane rating, and produces lower amounts of emissions while increase the U.S energy security. The cost of propane is significantly lower than gasoline. Savings based on the first year of use was approximately $22,270. These cars were driven 164,436 miles total, using 22,592 gallons of propane and displacing 20,332 gallons of gasoline.

Anti-Idling Devices

The City of Raleigh's Office of Sustainability partnered with the City's Police Department to implement anti-idling technology in 29 of the City's police fleet vehicles. The Energy Xtreme Law Enforcement anti-idling system allows the vehicle to operate its full electrical system (including lights, camera, and radio) without engaging the vehicle's engine. When the vehicle's engine is turned off, the Energy Xtreme is able to power the electrical system for a minimum of four continuous hours.

After the first quarter of usage, approximately 962 gallons were saved from the 29 vehicles in which the systems were installed. Projected annual savings as a result of the technologies are estimated at $63,199.

Compressed Natural Gas

The City also received Mobile Source Emissions Reduction Grants, administered by the Division of Air Quality of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The City used these grants to purchase alternative fuel vehicles and construct a CNG pumping station.

Emissions reductions associated with the use of CNG vehicles vary, but range from 50 to 90 percent in hydrocarbons, 30 to 60 percent in nitrogen oxides, and 85 to 90 percent in carbon monoxide. Biodiesel fuel reduces emissions by 24 percent.

The use of CNG vehicles also reduces the formation of carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming, by 30 to 40 percent. Another advantage is that the cost of CNG is significantly less than the price of gasoline, meaning CNG-powered vehicles have lower operating costs than conventional vehicles.

Electric Vehicles

Prius Charging

Electric vehicles are a cleaner, quieter, and a more efficient alternative to conventional vehicles. The City of Raleigh has implemented the infrastructure for electric vehicles in both the City fleet and those in use by the citizens. Raleigh was one of three pioneering cities for Project Get Ready. Project Get Ready is an initiative that helps prepare participating cities for the rollout of plug-in electric vehicles, including installing the necessary electric plug-in infrastructure.

The cost savings for an electric car are significant. If the cost per kilowatt hour is 12¢ and the cost of gasoline is $3.67, after traveling 100 miles the overall cost of operation of the electric vehicle would be approximately $2.64. The gasoline vehicle's operating cost for the same distance would be $11.74, a difference of $9.10! Electric vehicles are also cleaner, quieter, and a more efficient alternative to conventional vehicles.

Learn more about Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project


Biofuels can be defined by a wide range of fuels made from plants and other organic matter known as "biomass."

The term biofuels covers many different types of fuel from crop- and waste-derived sources, including ethanol, biodiesel and bio-blends fuels, used as alternatives to regular petroleum-based fuels.

The City of Raleigh is making efforts to grow and produce environmentally friendly biofuels to help reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.

Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant (NRWWTP)

The City received a grant from the North Carolina Solar Center to purchase a 1,000-gallon mobile fuel tanker to dispense the E85 blend of ethanol in 2009, covering 80 percent of the tanker's purchase price. The City plans to acquire a second tanker when funding becomes available.

In 2010, the City of Raleigh Public Utilities Department staff planted 27 acres of sunflowers on effluent-irrigated lands at the City's NRWWTP. The results were a harvest of 1,074 bushels which equated to approximately 29,700 pounds of sunflower seed. The final results of the crushing and conversion of oil was 1,258 gallons of sunflower seed biodiesel fuel. This equals 46 gallons of biofuel per acre, which was used by City of Raleigh vehicles to reduce the cost of gas and the City's carbon footprint.

For the project, an estimated 28 man hours were accrued by City staff, including planting, spraying, harvesting, and travel time to a processing plant in Virginia.

In 2012, the City of Raleigh has received a $100,000 grant from the Biofuels Center of North Carolina to purchase seed crushing and processing equipment and begin biofuel production at the Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant. The plant's staff is pursuing the development of an oilseed processing facility on site to displace at least 50 percent of the diesel fuel used annually with biodiesel.

Through the proceeds of this grant, $65,000 from the City of Raleigh’s Sustainability Fund and additional funding from the Public Utilities Department, Raleigh now has a fully operational mobile biofuel processor housed within a 46’ long trailer.

Learn more about Biofuel Production

Next Steps

The City of Raleigh is taking steps to acquire more fuel-efficient vehicles to save energy and reduce emissions. Vehicle purchases are being re-evaluated by City departments to determine if smaller or less-equipped vehicles can perform adequately without higher maintenance costs. This has resulted in a higher return-on-investment because of savings in purchase price and fuel. The City continues to explore resources that will enable it to support existing alternative fuel programs and initiatives, and develop new projects.

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