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Fleet Roundup: Chesapeake Energy, Heckmann, Canada Post, Surging Sales and More

Here’s a round-up of the latest environmental fleet news.

Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy Corporation, the nation’s second-largest producer of natural gas, last week brought its 800th compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle into service. The company aims to convert all 4,200 of its vehicles to CNG by 2014, and says this will save at least $11 million a year. The trucks will be used to oversee drilling programs in the Anadarko Basin in western Oklahoma.

In 2010, Chesapeake worked with gas station operators, including OnCue Express and Love’s Travel Stops, to add natural gas fueling stations to 14 existing public facilities on major roads in Oklahoma, bringing the state’s total number of public CNG stations to 42. In the next stage of its conversion, Chesapeake plans to work with gasoline retailers to open CNG stations in north Texas and Louisiana, followed by south Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, West Virginia and Pennsylvania in stages three and four.

Heckmann Water Resources, a provider of water services to the oil and natural gas industries, is buying 200 Peterbilt 367 liquefied natural gas (LNG) trucks. Heckmann says it is the first service provider for those industries to offer LNG trucks to its clients.

The agreement also includes fueling services by Encana Natural Gas, to be provided wherever Heckmann operates its fleet of water transport vehicles. Encana will initially dispense LNG using mobile fueling stations. The fuel provider opened its first CNG fueling station in Red River Parish, Louisiana last November, and plans to build its first permanent and public LNG fueling station in the Shreveport area later this year.

The Canadian postal service, Canada Post, has added four Navistar all-electric step vans to its fleet. The eStar Class 2c-3 electric truck has a range of 100 miles per charge, can be fully recharged within 6 to 8 hours, and its cassette-type battery can be swapped out in 20 minutes, enabling around-the-clock operation.

Canada Post has the largest delivery fleet in Canada, with over 7,300 vehicles traveling more than 79 million kilometers a year. The trucks can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to ten tons annually, Canada Post says. Indiana-based Navistar was the recipient of $39.2 million in U.S. stimulus funds for the development of the eStar.

Sales of new hybrid and electric cars climbed 37 percent in the first quarter of 2011, compared to the same period last year, according to automotive news and data site Edmunds.com. Hybrids and electrics outpaced the growth in gasoline-powered cars and trucks by 17 percentage points, reflecting higher gas prices.

Honda enjoyed a 84 percent quarter-on-quarter rise in hybrid and electric sales, led by its Insight hybrid. Its 2011 introduction of the CR-Z hybrid was also successful, with 3,670 sales in the first quarter, Edmunds said. Toyota, maker of the Prius hybrid, saw sales grow 37 percent.

But Mercedes-Benz and Nissan both saw advanced tech sales fall, as did Lexus for its HS 250h.

New models accounted for almost 10 percent of hybrid/electric sales in the quarter. But sales of the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid and Nissan Leaf battery-electric continue to be low as they are impeded by production and delivery constraints, Edmunds said. According to the website, GM reported deliveries of 608 Volts in March, bringing the model’s total to 1,210 since its December launch, while Nissan said it has delivered a total of 452 Leafs in the U.S.

Nissan stopped taking Leaf orders when 20,000 units were pre-ordered by U.S. customers in early December. And GM chief Dan Akerson predicted in January that 2011 Volt production would be raised from 10,000 to 25,000 vehicles.

Finally, retail real estate developer Simon Property Group has completed a Level 2 electric vehicle charging station at its Florida Mall in Orlando, and is planning to install a dual unit with two Level 2 chargers at Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, Calif. The Florida unit was installed by Car Charging, Inc., and the California unit will be installed by 350Green.

Picture credit: Chesapeake Energy Corporation.

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