Fiat Chrysler has invested $40 million to convert 179 trucks that transport parts between plants in the U.S. and Canada to run on compressed natural gas rather than diesel.
The investment, unveiled Friday, includes $1.8 million in infrastructure upgrades at FCA’s transport maintenance facility in Detroit and the construction of a $5 million compressed natural gas fueling station.
It will become the largest private station of its kind in North America, the company said.
“We wouldn’t make that kind of investment of that magnitude if first and foremost it didn’t have a solid business case,” said Steve Beahm, FCA North American supply chain chief. “The change over to diesel to natural gas provides significant benefits to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on foreign oil.
FCA expects the transition to natural gas to slash the company’s annual fuel costs by 35 percent, or about $2.5 million. The company’s truck fleet, which transports auto parts between plants in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Ontario, consumed about 2.6 million gallons of diesel fuel per year at a cost of $7.2 million.
“This is a major change in the way we operate,” said Marty DiFiore, the head of FCA Transport.
The conversion to natural gas took place over two years. The company’s fleet drivers and skilled trades workers went through “extensive training” to learn how to operate and maintain the trucks, DiFiore said.