BELOIT Wis. -

A fuel of the future could help a national chain in Beloit reduce its carbon footprint. Frito-Lay will begin using compressed natural gas in some trucks starting at its facility in Beloit.

At a press conference Wednesday, the company unveiled its first CNG filling station.
Senior Vice President of Productivity and Sustainability Gregg Roden said part of the project was made possible thanks to some state and federal grants.

The CNG station at the Beloit facility is the first CNG station for Frito-Lay, which was partially funded by a $3.2 million state grant awarded to the company, according to a Wisconsin Department of Administration release.

DOA’s State Energy Office helped get State and U.S. Department of Energy approval for the project, which has been three years in the making, according to the release.

According to the release, the state awarded $3.2 million in federal funds to Frito-Lay for the project in 2010 and Frito-Lay invested $4 million of its own funds for the project.

"We're the seventh-largest private fleet in the United States so we believe taking a leadership position like this will help evolve the industry," says Mike O' Connell, senior director of fleet operations for Frito-Lay North America.

At its Beloit facility, Frito-Lay officials unveiled plans to reduce the amount of traditional diesel they use in their fleet by switching to CNG. By the end of 2013, 40 percent of the company's trucks in Beloit will be using natural gas.

"The fuel here is 50 percent cheaper than if you were to buy diesel out on the road and it's a 23 percent reduction in the carbon output from the tailpipe of this vehicle," said O' Connell.

Frito-Lay is planning seven more CNG fueling stations in 2013 and expanding the number of CNG-powered trucks the company uses, according to the release. CNG tractors emit 23 percent less greenhouse gas than diesel, use an abundant, domestic natural gas fuel and can travel 300 to 700 miles per fill-up.

When all 208 CNG tractors are in service, Frito-Lay will eliminate 7,863 metric tons of carbon emissions or the equivalent of more than 1,125 cars annually, according to the release.

Drivers at a nearby rest stop support the idea of alternative fuels but question how affordable and accessible it will be to consumers.

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"I'm all for exploration and a new way of looking at things, I just don't favor the government subsidizing so much that we're not really getting anywhere. We're just spinning our wheels then," says Burnell Eckardt, from Kewanne, Ill.

"Cars might be more expensive to get, the availability of this fuel is just as bad. So if it's affordable for everybody it should be great, but if you can't afford it, it doesn't help us," says Robert Fernandez, from Orlando, Fla.

Executives at Frito-Lay said their new filling station is the first step in bringing CNG to more communities.

"While this site is on our Frito-Lay property and is used for our equipment, we're in partnership with several organizations to help build retail fuel sites. We'll go and fuel at those sites and then you can bring your car or truck and also fuel. So it will help build and evolve the industry faster," said O' Connell.

News 3 reached out to a number of auto parts stores in the Janesville area but couldn't find one that sells the conversion kit to transform vehicles into one that uses alternative fuels.

According to a manager at Rock County Honda in Janesville, the dealership is seeing an increase in people wanting to know more about the new Civic that uses CNG. It's also sending a technician to get additional training on how to repair the vehicles.

According to a CNG gas stations finder app, there are two stores near Rock County that have CNG, one in Rockford and one in Monona.