September 19, 2011 | General

Accelerating Adoption Of Natural Gas Vehicles

BioCycle September 2011, Vol. 52, No. 9, p. 42
La Crosse, Wisconsin car dealer’s most recent initiative is focusing on “Compressed Biogas From Cow Manure” as an alternative fuel.
Nora Goldstein

CHRIS Schneider, owner of Honda Motorwërks in La Crosse, Wisconsin, is a self-described hybrid guru. “We have been encouraging investment in hybrid vehicles – pretty much since the Honda Insight was first introduced in 1999,” says Schneider. His dealership sells new and preowned hybrids, including Insights, Civic Hybrids, Accord Hybrids, CR-Zs and Priuses. In 2006, Honda Motorwërks began selling the Honda Civic GX natural gas vehicles (NGVs), along with a home refueling station. “We now offer a broad selection of Honda NGVs,” he adds.
The home refueling appliance, which enables owners of NGVs to refuel using natural gas already coming to their homes and businesses, takes up to 16 hours to fill up the tank. The dealership had one installed for its use, but replaced it in 2009 with a Cirrus C6 compressed natural gas (CNG) “microcommercial” refueling system. “CNG vehicles like the Honda Civic GX can now be refueled in just 1.5 hours,” notes Schneider, who adds that CNG is almost 40 percent less than the cost of gasoline. “Anyone who buys a Civic GX from Honda Motorwërks has the opportunity to select an available time slot dedicated to their own weekly refueling needs. For example, drivers can drop their car at our Service Department in the morning and take a shuttle to wherever they need to go, and then call for a shuttle ride back at lunchtime or later. We are one of the few Honda dealers in the country to have a fueling station on our campus.”
Schneider is very active in promoting and tracking CNG use in the Midwestern states. For example, Kwik Trip, Inc., a convenience store chain based in La Crosse with over 350 locations across Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, has committed to installing a CNG refueling depot in La Crosse, where the company is based. “They are putting an enormous installation at an industrial park in town and will use CNG to power the fuel tankers delivering gasoline to its stores,” says Schneider. Kwik Trip is developing a CNG refueling “node” system, primarily along interstates, to enable its fleets to refuel when making deliveries.

The latest project for Schneider is “Compressed Biogas from Cow Manure” (CBCM), which focuses on utilizing farm-generated biogas as a renewable natural gas (RNG). “Western Wisconsin is well-endowed with cow manure and a lot of other potential feedstocks for agricultural digesters,” he says. “We have an advisory group assessing the feasibility of using RNG as a transportation fuel, along with developing a market infrastructure for biogas.”
The project model encompasses installation of low-cost digesters on farms that will receive livestock manures and other organics such as food processing residuals and cheese waste. Raw biogas will be pumped at low pressure through a PVC pipeline to a central conditioning, storage and dispensing site, explains Schneider. “The advisory group is recommending formation of a nonprofit organization tasked with educating area stakeholders about the benefits of RNG and eventually bringing together the financing and research to start a pilot project in western Wisconsin,” he says.
Schneider is host of the Thinking Green News Moment, which airs on the local Fox TV affiliate 25/48 in the La Crosse/Eau Claire region on Tuesday evenings. The News Moment features guests discussing a variety of green topics including alternative energy, local and organic foods and clothing, energy conservation, green transportation and the support of green events in the Upper Midwest. BioCycle’s 11th Annual Renewable Energy From Organics Recycling Conference in Madison will be highlighted on the October 25, 2011 Thinking Green broadcast. Episodes can be viewed on

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