20 Pittsburgh Public Works Trucks to Be Outfitted for Bio Diesel

Feb 17, 2015

Optimus Technologies Engineer Kevin Smyth works with one of the five public works vehicles outfitted with a bio fuel tank during the pilot program.
Credit Photo courtesy of Optimus Technologies

The city of Pittsburgh is gearing up to outfit 20 vehicles in the Department of Public Works with biodiesel technology and install a bio fueling station at its 29th Street garage.

Sustainability manager Grant Ervin said the city is teaming up with Homewood-based Optimus Technologies on the project aimed at reducing costs and emissions.

“We worked with them on a pilot program testing five trucks that we operate to test the technology they have called the vector system, which effectively allows the operator of the vehicle to transition from regular diesel to biodiesel,” Ervin said.

He said the technology allows drivers to monitor fuel consumption via a dashboard module, and switch between the different types of fuel. They found that the system reduced emissions by approximately 50 percent and costs by approximately 20 percent when applied to the five dump trucks.

“The … workhorses of the fleet that do everything from hauling waste to tree plantings to snow removal to hauling salt,” Ervin said. “We operated them through all four seasons, including the Polar Vortex of last year.”

So far, the city is focusing exclusively on large vehicles, which Ervin said produce 85 percent of total emissions and for which the Optimus technology is designed. But he said they’re exploring a variety of emissions-reduction technologies.

“(The vector fuel system ) is a really good example of something we can do to cut emissions with heavy duty vehicles, but this might not be a good fit for smaller or mid-size vehicles, for example,” Ervin said.

He said the project prompted the city to perform a comprehensive fleet analysis for its more than 1,000 vehicles, looking at the number of vehicles, costs and emissions. Ervin said the project is indicative of Mayor Bill Peduto’s commitment to a more efficient city government and will help the administration make better decisions in the future.

A bill to approve the installation of the vector fuel systems on public works vehicles and the installation of the bio fueling station was introduced in City Council this week. The cost to the city is not expected to exceed $150,000 and will be offset by a $95,000 Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection and a $25,000 Technology Commercialization Initiative grant from Innovation Works.