Natural Gas Vehicles

Vehicles That Run on Natural Gas

Advantages and Disadvantages of 2015 Natural Gas Vehicles

Natural gas has long been considered an alternative fuel for the transportation sector for a long time.  In fact, natural gas has been used to fuel vehicles since the 1930's!

With the cost of fossil fuel continually increasing, alternative energy sources become more attractive.  Most of us already use natural gas in our homes.  Why not use it in our vehicles too?  The advantages of natural gas vehicles are quickly being realized around the country.  There are both advantages and disadvantages of natural gas vehicles 2015 that we want to consider. 

Natural gas vehicles are much cleaner burning than vehicles fueled by "traditional" vehicles  (gas and diesel) due to the chemical composition of natural gas. While natural gas is primarily methane, gasoline and diesel fuels contain many other harmful compounds that are released into the environment through the vehicle's exhaust.  Natural gas may emit small amounts of ethane, propane, and butane when used for vehicular fuel, but it does not emit many of the other, more harmful substances emitted by the combustion of gasoline or diesel.  The harmful compounds include volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides.  These combine in the atmosphere to produce ground level ozone, along with benzene, arsenic, nickel, and over 40 other substances that are classified as toxic by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

 More and more cities and other local government entities are switching to natural gas for garbage trucks, transportation busses, as well as other types of vehicles.  This type of vehicle is also appealing to many fleet owners.  More and more compressed natural gas (CNG) stations are popping up around the country.  As this fuel becomes more available, more and more trucking companies will be making the switch.

Numerous manufacturers offer factory-built natural gas trucks, transit buses and school buses.  There are also a few options for those looking for natural gas light-duty pickup trucks or vans.  As of 2011, the only natural gas light-duty vehicle currently manufactured in the U.S. is the Honda Civic GX.  This car has been on the market for about 14 years.  Toyota introduced a CNG Camry at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2008, but still hasn’t announced any production plans for that vehicle. 

The price of natural gas is considerably cheaper than diesel fuel.  What is most appealing about natural gas is the abundant supply we have right here in the USA.  The cost of natural gas is closer to half the price of diesel.  There is another advantage for vehicles driven in a city environment.  CNG is also more efficient where drivers encounter a lot of stop-and-go traffic.

As natural gas pumps become commonplace throughout the continental USA, car manufacturers may very well switch many of their production vehicles to natural gas.  In 2009, MichCon, a Michigan based company, was awarded $5.4 million in federal funds through the non-profit Clean Energy Coalition to increase the number of natural-gas fueling stations throughout Michigan.  The funds were to also be used in converting 173 new Ford Econoline vans to operate on natural gas.   Jerry Norcia, president and COO of MichCon personally bought a Ford F-150 and converted it to run on natural gas.  He was quoted as saying, “Especially at $1.94 a gallon (equivalent to gasoline), it makes me feel good every time I jump in that truck and drive it.”

 The biggest barrier for companies to switch to natural gas is the cost of converting their gas and diesel vehicles to natural gas.  A conversion can run anywhere from $11,000 to $20,000 per vehicle.  Much of the variation in price is based on the size of the natural gas tank.  According to the federal government, there are more than 150,000 natural-gas powered vehicles on U.S. roadways.  But, there are only about 1,000 natural-gas fueling stations available across the nation.  About half of those stations are accessable to the public.  The fuel tanks on most natural gas vehicles aren't large enough to get them much more than 150 miles between fillups.  With so few fueling stations across the nation, that poses a real problem for truck haulers. 

The positioning of fuel tanks is critical on CNG cars.  In Europe, South America and Asia, there are safety concerns about the placement of the CNG tanks near the rear of automobiles, exposing them to damage when a car is rear-ended. Some countries don't allow CNG cars to park in public lots or parking structures, for fear of explosions.

Interesting Facts About Natural Gas

There are a lot of very interesting facts about natural gas. Spectra Energy has a wonderful website on natural gas. One page is named natural gas 101. I recommend visiting it as you will learn many of the advantages of natural gas. Here is a summary answering, "Why Natural Gas?" Go to the site for more details.

Natural gas is clean - produces 45% less carbon dioxide than coal.

Natural gas is domestically available - Almost all NG consumed in North America is produced in the U.S. and Canada.

Natural gas is abundant - Our supply is enough for at least 100 years of use.

Natural gas is efficient - Residential customers in North America have grown by 70% in the last 40 years but customers today use 40% less natural gas because of its efficiency.

Natural gas is reliable - This power source is available even if the sun isn't shinning or the wind blowing due to an efficient and reliable delivery system.

Natural gas is versatile - It generates electricity, heats & cools our homes and fuels our transportation while providing low-emission back-up generation for renewable sources of energy.

Natural gas is one of the safest fuels - Stringent safety standards govern the exploration, production, transportation, distribution, and use of NG.

Natural gas is needed - Currently it is used for about 25% of the energy needs of North America. It has the capacity to serve an ever bigger demand as it is is used more for power generation and transportation.

Natural gas is now - It's available and ready now. It's a proven resource and backed by proven technology.

Another interesting web-site on cng vehicles is presented by the Southern California Gas Company. Click here to get a lot more information on what CNG vehicles are now available.

As you can see, there are many advantages and disadvantages of 2015 natural gas vehicles.  Although the advantages seem to considerably outweigh the disadvantages.  As this technology catches on, the disadvantages will be overcome.  The infrastructure will develop as the number of vehicles increase.  The cost of production will also come down as the number of CNG vehicles increase.