May 21, 2015

Bi-fuel Volvo V70 shows off during trip to Ireland with Gas Networks

Rodger O’Connor is an expert at finding solutions to problems. An engineer by training, his current challenge is to develop a market for natural gas transportation across Ireland, creating an environment friendly for both fueling stations and vehicles.
Rodger with the bi-fuel Volvo V70 on arrival in Ireland
In April, Rodger – Commercial Innovation Analyst with Gas Networks Ireland – decided to give the industry a push by borrowing a Volvo V70, powered with Westport’s bi-fuel compressed natural gas (CNG) system to give business and government leaders, along with fleet owners and staff, a chance to see the potential for natural gas vehicles in the country. 

As part of the Gas Infrastructure Europe conference, Rodger wanted a CNG passenger car available to show EU ministers the potential for natural gas vehicles. He picked up the vehicle at Westport’s facilities in Gothenburg, Sweden, and drove it almost the entire way to Cork using CNG.
Westport Sweden, where the bi-fuel Volvo cars are assembled
“We had our own vans supporting each event, but you can’t put a government minister in a van and drive him around,” Rodger says. “That’s when we contacted Westport to get hold of the Volvo V70, and brought that to Dublin to show to the ministers of our own cabinet and EU.”
Picking up the bi-fuel Volvo V70 for its road trip to Ireland
Along with his team at Gas Networks Ireland, Rodger’s goal is to increase the use of natural gas to benefit consumers across the country by increasing infrastructure and efficiency and ideally lowering cost to the end users. A private entity regulated by the government, Gas Networks’ role is to transport gas on behalf of fueling companies.

With the price of natural gas as a vehicle fuel ranging from 30 to 50 percent lower than petrol or diesel in Ireland, there’s great savings to be had for high-volume fuel users, Rodger says. 
Late night CNG refuelling in Osnabrück, Germany
Rodger’s current mandate is to develop a corridor of publicly-accessible CNG fueling stations that will link Dublin to Belfast, Cork and Limerick in order to meet current EU guidelines. Ideally, they’ll work with fueling partners to create 17 bays in existing petrol or diesel fueling stations; at the minimum, Rodger expects to see at least seven stations in the coming months. To do this, Gas Networks Ireland plans to use a variety of national and EU grant funding to develop the new fueling infrastructure.
Taking the ferry from the pier at Calais, France...
... to the cliffs at Dover, United Kingdom.
During the time it takes for stations to be established, he’s educating fleets about the benefits of switching to natural gas. As a natural gas provider, Gas Networks has its own fast-fill station at its headquarters in Cork, and invites fleets to come in and try the fuel at its station (with demo vehicles).

While trucks, buses and vans are going to be the key consumers of natural gas, Rodger says, there’s a lot of interest in the Volvo for taxi fleets. It’s also a vehicle that most people can relate to, and during its visit to Ireland, Gas Networks provided opportunities for key partners, stakeholders and staff to try it out. 
The bi-fuel Volvo V70 in the ferry from Holyhead, Wales to Dublin, Ireland
“We use natural gas for our own use because we’re encouraging others to use it as well,” says Roger. “While we had the Volvo V70 here, we spent the time with the car giving it to our CEO, our head of projects, and made time for employees to drive around and build awareness. A big part was getting it to our own crew to drive a nice-looking, well-kitted out car. We also got it out to Volvo dealers who work with fleets and gave them a chance to see it – it was fabulous exposure.”

Rodger sees the role of Gas Networks Ireland as not only educating people about the value of natural gas, but educating them about the role they may play in one day supporting the industry.

“I got out to the local university as well – a friend there is a lecturer in sustainable energy – and the mechanical engineering class looked over the car, engine, tanks. They are the third part of the puzzle – we’ll need them to go out and maintain this equipment. We've made great use of [the Volvo V70]. We really appreciate it.”
For more information or photos of the trip, please contact Westport and we can put you in touch with Gas Networks Ireland. 

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