Airport authorities across the country are using a variety of light, medium, and heavy-duty natural gas vehicles to reduce emissions, comply with federal and state air quality plans and earn off-set credits for facility expansions. Many airports have policies and incentives that foster the use of alternative fuel vehicles by the private fleets that operate at the airport.

Air-side NGVs include runway street sweepers, baggage tows, dump and plow trucks, grounds keeping tractors, food service vans, security and parking enforcement cars, and other airport staff vehicles. Curb-side applications include airport-owned and privately operated parking, hotel and rental car shuttles, door-to-door shuttles, and taxicabs.

San Francisco International Airport
In 2000, the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) instituted a Clean Vehicle Policy that by 2012 all ground transportation vehicles would have very low emissions, as long as manufacturers offered products that were affordable and reliable. Compressed natural gas (CNG), hybrid, and electric vehicles are the main choices for operators. Much of the airport’s owned fleet runs on CNG, including passenger vehicles such as the Honda Civic natural gas and Ford Crown Victoria, as well as pickup trucks, street sweepers, a crane truck and several dump trucks.

Because vehicles directly owned and operated by the airport account for a small portion of the miles traveled by all vehicles serving the airport, the policy has to involve the much broader universe of commercial traffic in and out of the airport on a daily basis. Part of the success of the airport’s Clean Vehicle Policy is that it used both financial and non-financial incentives to encourage operators to move to cleaner vehicles. For example, the airport instituted a policy that allows taxis using alternative fuels to go to the front of the line on a limited basis. While that incentive doesn’t reduce airport revenue, it offers substantial economic benefit to taxi drivers.

Vehicles running on CNG were the first option for ground transportation providers in 2000, and they remain the most important component today, with more than 500 CNG vehicles in service, including buses, vans, and cars.

Who uses the most fuel?

Taxi 24%
Hotel shuttles 23%
Parking shuttles 19%
Shared-ride vans 10%
On-Airport shuttles and staff vehicles 9%
Other (mainly municipal and private fleets 9%
Airline crew shuttles 4%
Charter vehicles 2%

Two competing public access CNG stations serve SFO, one at each end of the airport. Operated by Trillium USA and Clean Energy, the stations opened in 1999 and 2003 to serve a rapidly growing population of CNG vehicles. With 15 fast-fill CNG hoses between the two stations, they form the largest public access CNG fueling complex in Northern California. Specialized fast-fill dispensers for transit buses are offered at the Clean Energy station. Some operators, like San Francisco Yellow Cab, operates its own station off-site to service its fleet of taxis.

Financial incentives have also played a part. The airport has received about $16 million from the Bay Area Quality Management District, San Francisco County Transportation Authority, and other grant agencies for SFO-permitted low-emission vehicles. In 2001, the airport received an NGV Achievement Award from NGVAmerica and the Clean Vehicle Foundation (CVEF) for its aggressive effort to support cleaner air.