Natural gas keeps Centre City on its tows

by Carolyn Chase
f your car had broken down on the side of the road, you probably wouldn't notice anything different about the Centre City Towing truck that showed up to rescue you. You might never know that your car was being towed by San Diego's only natural gas tow truck.
Centre City Towing is one of only ten companies in California selected by the California Energy Commission to participate in a feasibility study examining the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) in medium-duty vehicles. Participating with an incentive program sponsored by San Diego Gas & Electric, Raul Jacquez, owner of CCT, had his 1987 Ford tow truck converted to run on natural gas.
Much of the time, his clean-fuel truck is used to pick-up and recover abandoned vehicles that are delivered to a state-of-the-art auto recycler. Many discarded vehicles contain toxic materials; Raul identifies them as "toxic waste."
"We believe that private business should be innovators and leaders in positive environmental change," says Raul. "We wish to create a national model that demonstrates cleaner fuel use in removal of environmental hazards from our communities."
Jaquez's truck conversion was performed by Hawthorne Power System. Two steel-and-fiberglass composite fuel tanks, measuring 32-inches long by 15-inches in diameter, were mounted under the truck. In addition, Jaquez added a third tank on the truck's bed, just behind the driver. "This third tank allows me to provide roadside service to any NGV that may have run out of natural gas," Raul explains.
Raul feels he can do the right thing and also get in on the ground floor of a new market by servicing NGVs. "Society needs to move toward alternative fuels. There may be only a few such vehicles around today, but we should be watching to see how we can meet their needs because there could be a lot of them in the future. Until there are more natural gas fueling stations, people who make the effort to better our environment by driving NGVs could run out of fuel. I'm here to help them out today so they will be my customers in the future."
In addition to his practical testing of natural gas, Raul also supports other alternative energies. CCT donated a travel trailer and helped raise funds for San Diego State's Suntrakker solar-powered car. You could also find Raul at this year's EarthFair, sharing his experience and showing how natural gas is working here today. "It's something we've got to do for our children," he says, "because if we don't, they probably won't have a future."
"I've been very focused on promoting the environment," said Jaquez, 41, a 30-year resident of San Diego. Raul is the father of four young sons and has operated CCT for the past 13 years.

Carolyn Chase is the Executive Director of San Diego Earth Day and Chief Operating Officer of Earth Day USA.