The Hertz Corporation has just begun in the Oklahoma City region what’s hoped to be the first of more pilot programs for renting compressed natural gas powered vehicles in the U.S.

The initially modest number of eight CNG Honda Civics and two CNG GMC Yukons will be available from Will Rogers World Airport. This latest step adds to a CNG on demand program at Oklahoma State University, and is actually an expansion for CNG from rental fleets in Italy and the United Kingdom.

Why Oklahoma and not some place like Southern California? Infrastructure, and the fact that several top CNG producers are located in the state.

The first Hertz rental vehicles will thus be able to access as many as 70 natural gas refueling locations in Oklahoma, either already in existence or earmarked for construction.

Compressed natural gas has long been popular among vehicle fleet companies for a variety of commercial applications. Whether it’s running taxicabs, delivery vans or pickup trucks, its adaptability to existing vehicles often makes it a logical choice. What is more, its price is typically half that of gasoline, and – like electricity – it’s energy produced in the U.S.

However, outside of fleet use, CNG hasn’t really caught on for consumer vehicles in great numbers – yet. But now coming one step closer to populating roadways with CNG cars, even rental car companies are starting to use it.

In this case Hertz’s program will be carried out by the Donlen corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hertz, and it’s not surprising Hertz would be involved in such an experiment.

The company has alternately offered muscle cars in the 60s, presently it has begun a “Green Collection” of hybrids and electric rental vehicles, and Hertz is branching into car sharing as well.

We keep hearing about companies positioning themselves not just in the hybrid and electric arena, but also to take advantage of America’s natural gas reserves.

Hertz did not say where its next CNG rental location might be, but Aubrey K. McClendon, chief executive officer for natural gas supplier Chesapeake Energy Corporation indicated this maybe only a first step toward many more.

“We hope the success of Hertz’s program in Oklahoma City leads to adoption of this program nationwide,” he said.

Hertz via Green Car Congress