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 BURBANK, Calif., April 13 /PRNewswire/ -- The nation's first long- distance, tractor-trailer truck powered by clean-burning natural gas was publicly unveiled today at the Vons' Pavilions grocery store at 1110 Alameda Ave. in Burbank, the California Energy Commission said today.
 The truck is part of a public/private demonstration program sponsored by the California Energy Commission, Southern California Gas Co., the Vons Companies Inc. (NYSE: VON), the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) and Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT).
 This truck signifies state-of-the-art and "leading edge" technologies for the transportation sector.
 With California having the toughest air pollution and vehicle emission regulations in the country, it was logical that the state pursue a heavy-duty demonstration project fueled by natural gas.
 "California is the undisputed world leader in exploring clean, alternative transportation fuels," notes California Energy Commission Chairman Charles Imbrecht.
 "This partnership between government and private industry proves joint efforts can improve air quality and reduce our dependence on petroleum," said Imbrecht.
 Southern California Gas. Co.'s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard D. Farman says that natural gas is well positioned to be a fuel of choice for the next generation.
 "Natural gas is the only viable alternative fuel that has the potential to achieve two very important goals: improving air quality and reducing reliance on foreign energy, and at the same time lower the cost of driving," said Farman.
 "I'm confident this joint project will further demonstrate that natural gas vehicles offer high performance, are cost-effective to operate and provide the environmental and economic benefits the public wants and expects," said Farman.
 To support the market for natural gas vehicles, Southern California Gas Co. has initiated the development of the refueling infrastructure. By the end of this year, The Gas Co. will have opened 51 refueling stations.
 South Coast Air Quality Management District Chairman Henry "Hank" Wedaa says natural gas-powered heavy-duty truck emissions are 50- to 88-percent less than those from their diesel counterparts.
 "Heavy-duty trucks account for 27 percent of the hydrocarbon and Nitrogen Oxides emissions in the South Coast Air Basin," says Wedaa.
 "Alternative fuel trucks, such as the one unveiled today, can significantly reduce this contribution. In addition, compressed natural gas engines produce no particulate matter, a diesel exhaust component with serious health implications," says Wedaa.
 The Vons Companies Inc. is the only company in the country that is operating a natural gas-powered, heavy-duty vehicle on a long-distance delivery route.
 "Vons is proud to be the industry leader in exploring the use of alternatively fueled vehicles. As the largest supermarket in Southern California, Vons actively supports efforts to explore alternative fuels for both air pollution control and energy conservation," said Richard H. Maron, vice president Transportation/Logistics, the Vons Cos. Inc.
 During the news conference, Vons highlighted its involvement with the communities of the Los Angeles area and Bakersfield by announcing a donation to two charities.
 The natural gas-powered truck's trailer was loaded with canned goods, worth an estimated retail value of $10,000, to be donated to both the Pico Christian food bank in Los Angeles and the St. Anthony's Food Basket in the San Joaquin Valley.
 Following the drop off of canned goods to the Pico Christian food bank, the "big rig" hit the road to Bakersfield for delivery of its donations to the St. Anthony's Food Basket.
 18 Wheels "Keep On Truckin'" ... Cleanly
 Vons operates the 18-wheeler on a grueling daily route along Interstate 5 over the 4,138-foot elevation Tejon Pass and down the steep descent into the San Joaquin Valley called the "Grape Vine."
 After dropping off its load in Bakersfield, the truck usually "dead heads" back to El Monte.
 The Ford LTLA-9000 "Aeromax" tractor is powered by a Caterpillar G3406 engine on the run from the Vons distribution center in El Monte to Vons retail grocery outlets in the Bakersfield area.
 This is the first heavy-duty truck in the country with an engine designed and manufactured to run on natural gas. It is not a converted engine.
 The natural gas-powered Caterpillar G3604A SITA engine is normally used in stationary power applications, but Caterpillar adapted the engine's design to meet road performance and emission requirements.
 Both Ford and Caterpillar recognize the market potential if this vehicle meets their expectations.
 Hence, both companies made major contributions in design, support and cost-sharing the vehicle's construction.
 Ford Motor Cos. Truck Division provides engineering support for the project and helped with installation configuration, structural support design for the fuel cylinders, and an upgraded cooling system option.
 Engine and fuel system installation on the Vons truck were done by Power System Associates of Whittier.
 Truck fuel system design and project management support are provided by Acurex Environmental Corp. of Mountain View.
 The tractor is outfitted with 10 natural gas cylinders from CNG Cylinder Co.
 Five cylinders are mounted on each side of the vehicle between the wheel wells.
 These 10 cylinders give the truck a 250-mile range when fully fueled.
 The tractor trailer truck fuels at the Southern California Rapid Transit District natural gas fuel station in Sun Valley, about 25 miles north of downtown Los Angeles.
 This station is supported by Southern California Gas Co.
 If the truck needs to detour to pick up a "back-haul" from Bakersfield, it refuels at Pacific Gas & Electric Co.'s Bakersfield natural gas fuel station.
 Because natural gas costs about 85 cents per diesel gallon equivalent, the per mile operating cost of running the tractor on natural gas may be competitive with diesel fuel.
 The actual cost of operating the vehicle will be verified during the one-year demonstration project.
 And with natural gas heavy-duty vehicles producing 50- to 88-percent less emissions than a diesel vehicle, using natural gas has an environmental benefit.
 -0- 4/13/93
 /CONTACT: Bob Aldrich or Claudia Chandler of the California Energy Commission, 916-654-4989, or pager, 916-762-4099; or Claudia Keith of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, 909-396-3456; or Denise King of the Southern California Gas Co., 213-244-3030; or Sandra Calderon or Julie Reynolds of The Vons Companies, 818-821-7291/

CO: The Vons Companies Inc.; Southern California Gas Co.; South Coast
 Air Quality Management District; California Energy Commission; Ford
 Motor Co.; Caterpillar Inc. ST: California IN: OIL ENV TRN SU: PDT

SG-TB -- SF005 -- 5243 04/13/93 13:00 EDT
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Date:Apr 13, 1993

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