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Out of Gas?

BAF Technologies use Alibre Design to convert fleet vehicles to alternative fuels

If you’ve filled up in the last few months, it is hard not to notice gas prices topping $4 a gallon. This year’s precipitous spike rivals that of the gas shortage crisis of the late 1970s, when foreign oil shortages sent shock waves through the US economy.

If the individual driver feels the pinch, imagine the impact on businesses that deploy hundreds of vehicles for deliveries or in-the-field maintenance. Sudden inflation in fuel costs often breaks budgets, forcing companies to cut back services or raise their own prices.

Some fleet owners, however, can say they saw this coming. They already converted company vehicles to run on alternative fuels. Dallas-based BAF technologies is a leading provider of alternative fuel systems and has converted thousands of client vehicles to run off of compressed natural gas (CNG) instead of gasoline.

Natural gas burns cleaner, generating only a fraction of street-level pollution associated with conventional engines. Over its lifetime, a CNG vehicle will emit 50 million tons less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But the main attraction for fleets is economic. Vast domestic supplies of natural gas means fleets are insulated from fuel cost fluctuations.

While some predict pump prices to reach $5 a gallon by the end of the summer, natural gas has hovered steadily around $2 a gallon for years. In some localities, green subsidies make CNG fuel even cheaper.

An automotive modeling alternative

It’s getting easier, too, to obtain a fleet of CNG vans or trucks. In 2010, Ford Motor Company began offering a check-box option on many of its utility models for an engine especially prepped for conversion. Fleet buyers then rely on a specialist like BAF Technologies to install the alternative fuel system.

Although BAF has the expertise to convert many automotive brands, it has developed a special working relationship with Ford, following the company’s best practices in processes as well as EPA certification criteria.

BAF technicians install a high-pressure system featuring a series of large scuba-like canisters underneath the rear of the vehicle. BAF procures most of the CNG processing components from other manufacturers, but it relies on its own design department for the parts specific to fitting to a particular vehicle.

For that task, BAF has found its own lower-cost alternative in parametric modeling with Alibre Design. The automakers like Ford may have the most expensive engineering software tools of any industry, with a single seat of a modeling application costing $5000 or more. The Alibre package offers much of the same design functionality for just a few hundred dollars.

Alibre Design’s parametric models allow them to make quick adjustments to dimensions when switching installation parts from a Ford F450 platform to a F550, for example. Alibre models easily export to formats compatible with original automaker digital assemblies. And when it comes to final manufacture, BAF has no trouble conveying Alibre Design output to local outsources for laser cutting, aluminum stamping, or sheet metal fabrication.

According to the design team at BAF, expanding their engineering capability with Alibre Design rather than extra seats of CATIA meant there was more left in the budget for other important software tools, like finite element analysis.

When businesses both large and small look for new ways to keep control over expenses – it is time to explore some alternatives.

About BAF Technologies
BAF Technologies is the leading provider of natural gas vehicle systems and conversions in the United States and supports clients with alternative fuel systems. Founded in 1992 and headquartered in Dallas, Texas, BAF was acquired by Clean Energy in October 2009. BAF’s alternative fuel vehicle up-fitting capabilities include aftermarket compressed natural gas (CNG) conversions of Ford-manufactured vans, cutaway shuttles, taxis, pick-ups and light-duty trucks.

3D model and drawings created with: Alibre Design Expert 2011

About Alibre, Inc.
Alibre is the leading global provider of cost effective professional grade mechanical CAD, CAM, and PDM solutions. Founded in 1997, Richardson, Texas-based Alibre is led by Chairman and CEO J. Paul Grayson (previously CEO of Micrografx) and other graphics visionaries who are changing the landscape of 3D mechanical CAD/CAM software. Alibre develops Alibre Design™ and Alibre CAM™, the fastest growing parametric CAD/CAM solutions on the market. A small fraction of the cost of comparable software, Alibre Design offers the same core features as SolidWorks, Pro/E, Inventor, and other mid-range solid modeling packages at a cost that is affordable to any business or individual. Alibre CAM extends Alibre Design to provide integrated 2 1/2 to 5 axis CNC machining. Used by an immensely diverse user base, Alibre Design and Alibre CAM provide design and manufacturing solutions to Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, consulting firms, machine shops, start-ups, hobbyists, inventors, teachers and students. Alibre products are distributed in 50 countries and in 15 languages. For more information on Alibre, or for a free trial of Alibre Design and Alibre CAM, please visit All trademarks and registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners.