Four new South Bend garbage trucks will run on natural gas, expected to save $50,000 a year

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In the spirit of Earth Day, the city of South Bend Monday unveiled one of four new garbage trucks that will run on compressed natural gas instead of diesel fuel.

"They're greener, they're cleaner, they're cheaper and they're quieter than we're used to," said Mike Schmuhl, chief of staff for the city of South Bend.

The four trucks are designed to leave a smaller carbon footprint. Each will save the city (and therefore taxpayers) about $12,500 a year in fuel costs. Officials expect the four together will save the city about $50,000 a year.

But who’s paying for these earth-friendly trucks? A grant from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management paid for two of the trucks. With the savings in fuel costs, the city expects the trucks to pay for themselves in 2 1/2 years.

The trucks are expected to not only be more energy efficient, but quieter as well.

“We are hoping to see a 50-percent noise reduction so everybody in the city will benefit. It's not just the city buying a nice new truck it's something that we're trying to give back to help reduce our costs,” said Andre Price, South Bend's director of solid waste.

Right now diesel fuel costs about $3.50 per gallon on average. City officials say that by using natural gas, the cost will be about one dollar per equivalent gallon, which amounts to a savings of $2.50 per gallon.

The city also says there will be a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from these trucks compared to the older versions. Carbon monoxide emissions are expected to be reduced by 75 percent and particulate matter emissions by 90 percent.

"The nitrous oxide emissions are about 50 percent less. Because there's less carbon in the fuel, it burns much cleaner," said Eric Horvath, South Bend's director of public works.

"Particulates are a big issue with air quality," said Jon Burke, South Bend's municipal energy director. "In the city we have the trash trucks running up and down, the solid waste trucks running up and down the corridors of the city. When you reduce particulate matter, it's a big deal."

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