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NGV Industry Loses ‘Pioneer’ Bill Calvert

William Jesse “Bill” Calvert, Jr., 80, of Louisville, KY died on December 23, 2020 at Sam Swope Care Center – Masonic Homes of Kentucky in Louisville.

Bill spent decades in the natural gas vehicle industry, beginning in 1982 as National Sales Manager of Advance Fuel Systems.  He later co-founded Bachman NGV (later BAF Technologies) in 1992.

Bill Calvert was presented with NGVAmerica’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.  Below are introductory remarks from that presentation:

“I have the great honor to present the 2012 Lifetime NGV Achievement Award to a man I am proud to call my mentor and my friend – Bill Calvert.  

“There aren’t many people in this industry that Bill has not somehow touched either directly or indirectly…. His influence — his legacy — may be measured in so many ways — but the most important is the measure of the trusts and friendships that he has developed over the years – He’s a people person…. Whether its customers, suppliers or “newbies” like me back in 2002 when I first came to this industry, Bill has been a tremendous resource and valued advisor. And who better to have as an advisor…. Bill has been at the center of this industry for 30 years. 

“He started in 1982, when he was National Sales Manager of Advance Fuel Systems in Wichita Kansas; AFS was one of just two companies that essentially WERE the NGV business…. the other being Dual Fuel out of California. Bill called on gas utilities and others in the emerging new industry, setting up distributors and making four-legged sales calls on customers. Two of those early distributors were John Sayre and Frank Davis…. names that many of you know. Sayre went on to form ANGI and Frank is still a force in alt fuel engine systems. 

“A couple of years later, AFS went under and Bill was without a job, but he never lost his interest or passion for the NGV business. He knew that customers wanted to go to one place where they could get a vehicle, the natural gas system and the service.  In 1992, he pitched his idea to a friend and business acquaintance, Steve Bachman, owner of Bachman Chevrolet, a well-established dealership and one of the country’s largest GM parts distributors. Together they co-founded Bachman NGV, which eventually became Bachman AFV and is now known as BAF Technologies. 

“In 1993, he was one of the founding board members of the Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition, which just one year later became just the sixth Clean Cities Coalition to be designated under the DOE program…there are now 93. Back then, Bachman AFV was buying their engine retrofit systems from GFI and Mesa Environmental…again, companies associated with two names many of you know…Lloyd Austin and Boone Pickens. Lloyd passed away in a plane accident. Bill and Boone still share a close friendship that both treasures.   

“In 1997, Bill landed a large account, the US Air Force, with an order for over 700 vehicles….  Bill set up 38 “service centers” around the country to take care of this new account…. many of the people involved in those service centers have gone on to start or play key roles in new NGV businesses….One of the guys on the other side of the fence at Air Force was Paul Shafer, who later joined the BAF team and is still there.  Another involved in that effort was Matt Matsakawa, now at Go Natural CNG. 

“Bill practically single-handedly developed the 6.8L E450 natural gas shuttle bus business…. Ford offered the 5.4L engine with natural gas but many dealers wanted the bigger engine….Bill and BAF developed their own system and Bill did what he does best – developed relationships with people….in this case, just about every major bus dealer doing NGV deals around the country. Being a people person and not thrilled with the administrative burdens and pressures of managing the growing business day-to-day, in 2000, Bill and Steve Bachman brought on John Bacon to be President of BAF.  

“Bill continued to focus on developing sales and service relationships… it’s about then – in 2002 — when I met him as the new guy at the NGV Coalition – now NGVAmerica…. We hit it off from the start and I am pleased to say that both Lee and I have enjoyed that friendship ever since. Bill has that effect on lots of people.  The list of people that consider him their friend and mentor is longer than my arm…. Many now work for BAF because Bill brought them on board… I could go on and on about Bill but that would just embarrass him… he’s a true gentleman, a sage advisor and a force within our industry whose roots go back to the beginning.  For his accomplishments and his service to our industry we’re pleased to present this Lifetime Achievement Award to Bill…”

Bill Calvert is survived by his wife Janie Moss Calvert, sons Bryan and Geoffrey and daughter Kelly and their spouses, stepdaughter Kim, and multiple grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Bill’s full obituary can be accessed here.