By Van Mitchell
Special to The Sun
The MERVAN Project aims to convert the U.S. Postal Service fleet vehicles to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) and converting half of the private sector’s fuel use to natural gas in 10 years.
Dave Evans, project director told audience members of the Logan County Economic Development Council at its Thursday breakfast meeting at Guthrie Golf and Country Club that the program is backed by four metro-area businessmen and through a collaborative effort by legislators and automobile manufacturers.
“This is an opportunity to help our country get off the nipple of foreign oil,” Evans said. “It is a way to make us energy independent and it is a way to grow our economy using our natural resources.”
The MERVAN project was started by businessmen Ron Mercer, John Vance, Scott Rayburn and John Morey. It is named after the last names of the first two of the above listed individuals.
Evans said the project began two years ago and the first step is to launch a pilot program at the USPS training center in Oklahoma City involving 50 to 100 USPS vehicles and the construction of a fast-fill CNG station at an Oklahoma City post office.
Evans said vehicles similar to what the USPS has are being used in Europe and run on CNG. He added MERVAN has partnered with Ford Motor Company to produce the vehicles in this country.
“We have found a common off-the-shelf solution for USPS,” he said. “The vehicle is being used in Europe right now. It comes off the assembly line ready for CNG. We went to Ford with this and they were all in.”
Evans said if successful the plan is to lease 141,000 CNG vehicles to the USPS during a 10-year span.
“The biggest reason we can do this is the infrastructure is already in Oklahoma City,” Evans said. “This is a no-brainer. We can prove the pilot program works without any issues. That will allow us to see how the Postal Service uses the vehicle and see how it works for them. Then we are going to lease 141,000 vehicles to the Postal Service over the next 10 years.”
Evans said Oklahoma has been leading the way with CNG conversions. He said Gov. Mary Fallin and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper brought together a collection of 17 states committed to transforming their state vehicle fleets to CNG.
Evans said in 2013 alone USPS will spend $1.4 billion on maintenance costs for its vehicle fleet.
“The beneficiary of our plan is the United States Postal Service,” Evans said. “You know they are struggling right now. They are $15.9 billion in the hole this year. We can’t solve all their challenges but we can solve part of them. We are going save them on their fuel cost. We are going to replace their aging fleet. We are going to lower their maintenance costs. We are going to help them with this lease program.”
Evans said MERVAN is also working on developing fast-fill fuel stations through a public-private partnership and local distribution stations to ensure that CNG pumps are at service stations across the state and country.
“The beauty of this plan is it will produce a $250 billion boost to our economy annually in reduced fuel costs and economic growth and will dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” he said.