Consumers have been selecting natural gas vehicles over electric vehicles at a rate of two to one. By year end there will be approximately 123,600 natural gas vehicles on our nation’s road as compared to 65,500 electric vehicles. Despite the lack of marketing or fueling infrastructure for natural gas, it is now the first choice among consumers looking to alternative ways to fuel their vehicles.
The drop in natural gas prices has helped fuel the demand; beating out the more heavily marketed and federally funded electric vehicles (EVs). Four years ago President Obama unveiled his vision of 1 million plug-in vehicles on U.S. roads by the 2015 and pumped $5 billion into funding for electric cars. In February the Obama admiration proposed the tax credit for plug-in vehicle be increased from $7,500 to $10,000 and also extend the credit to other alternative vehicles like natural gas.
In response to the higher demand from motorist, Honda began showing it’s Honda Civic GX natural gas vehicle in car showrooms across the country, where previously it had only been marketed as a fleet vehicle. It is currently the only NGV sedan on the market. Honda says the marketing is paying off big for them, and sales of the vehicle are continuing to break new monthly highs. Although the choices are few for compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles, it should be pointed out that conventional gasoline and diesel vehicles can be retrofitted for CNG. If natural gas is available at your home you can install a pumping station inside your garage.
CNG is safe or at least safer than gasoline, Although CNG is flammable, it has a narrow flammability range, and if released by accident it quickly disperses making it less likely to ignite than gasoline. CNG is also non-toxic, it dissipates when released and will not leak to contaminate soil and water supplies.
The natural gas used in vehicles is classified into two types compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas(LNG). According to fueleconomy.gov “eighty-seven percent of the natural gas consumed in the U.S.is also produced here; which greatly reduces are dependency on foreign imports. It is 60%-90% less polluting than traditional fuels. With 30%-40% less greenhouse gas emissions and is less expensive than gasoline. At the present time the main disadvantages of CNG vehicles is the lack of facilities available to pump the gas, fewer miles to the tank and few choice available by auto makers.
All gas vehicles depend on fossil fuel. The natural gas obtained from drilling is a fossil fuel and while no fossil fuels are considered to be renewable resources because of the millions of years needed for the earth to produce them; natural gas is primarily methane and methane gas can be produced as a renewable resource. Methane gas is currently being collected from landfills and produced from rotting vegetation and animal manure.
CNG vehicles are cheaper to operate than conventional vehicles and burn cleaner than gasoline vehicles. Electric vehicles running on electricity alone put out “0” emissions at the tail pipe, but the electricity providing that power is generated at power plants running off fossil fuels. The U.S. Department of Energy states that “PHEVs (plugin hybrid electric vehicles) and EVs (electric vehicles) typically have a well-to-wheel emissions advantage over similar conventional vehicles running on gasoline or diesel.
However, in communities that depend heavily on conventional fossil fuels for their electricity generation, PEVs (Plugin Electric Vehicles) may not demonstrate a well-to-wheel emissions benefit.”
The switch from diesel to CNG is the larger trend for cities and municipalities across the country. The U.S Department of Transportation provides grants for upgrading mass transit and many cities are already using those dollars to advance their fleets over to CNG vehicles.
The future for NGV remains uncertain; although the advantages seem clear, reduce dependency on foreign oil, cleaner energy for the environment, lower cost to fuel. The largest drawback is the lack of infrastructure for refueling. As government agencies along with private fleet owned vehicles begin to convert vehicles from gasoline to NGV the private sector will also begin to benefit from their expansion. Improvements in refueling technology and engine performance will also soon follow. It will likely be the consumers, who ultimately decide our next energy of choice.