For a long time, taxis, trucks, delivery vans have been on the bottle. On a bottle of CNG, or Compressed Natural Gas. Now, “major automakers like General Motors and Chrysler are gearing up to invest in companies that make engines and parts for vehicles that run on the fuel,” says Reuters.
Actually, it doesn’t take much to make an ICE run on CNG. The biggest challenges are where to place the tank and how to get the EPA certification. A retrofitted tank takes up valuable trunk space while that gasoline tank stays empty (or filled, for bi-fuel systems popular in Europe.) Factory-built vehicles get around these challenges. CNG produces significantly less pollutants. CNG costs about half of the equivalent amount of gasoline. And most of all, says Reuters:
“The United States has more natural gas than it knows what to do with – up to 100 years of supply, experts say.”
Actually, experts said that in 2009 U.S. reserves of natural gas were estimated as 2,074 trillion cubic feet (59 trillion cubic meters). That may have been a wrong number. The CIA has a lower figure of 244 trillion cubic feet (6.9 trillion cubic meters.) Why the difference of opinion? A drilling technique called “fracking” can release huge reserves of natural gas trapped in shale rock, but that process is not without its fracking enemies.
CNG could give ye olde ICE a few years more. No wonder that GM and Chrysler are warming up to the idea. The question is: What took them so long? It’s no bleeding edge technology. The all knowing Wikipedia says that by 2009, there were 11.2 million CNG powered vehicles on the roads of this planet. They are popular in Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil and the Iran. CNG tanks are a common sight in taxis in Tokyo, Hong Kong, the limo that took me from Detroit airport to Bricktown was on the bottle.
In the U.S., there is a small cottage industry of CNG conversions. The Honda Civic GX, an ex factory CNG car that will be available to the public next year, claims a range of 225 to 250 miles on a full tank of gas. Then there are the Chinese.
It is more than likely that you could fill a CNG car at home. The U.S. sits on a massive infrastructure of natural gas pipes, fueling stoves and heaters across the nation. A home refueling appliance can compress gas into the cylinder. It costs about $3,500 uninstalled and uses 800 watts of power when running. Without gas at home, you need a CNG filling station. They are surprisingly plenty, crossing the continent on CNG would still be a challenge.
Let’s ask the CIA what they think about CNG. The natural gas reserves of the U.S. are the sixth largest in the world, ranking between Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Good. China has less than half of the U.S. reserves. No wonder they like EVs. Tiny Qatar has roughly four times the reserves of the U.S. and eight times the reserves of China. Expect that peninsula to be liberated by pro-democracy forces before China buys it.
The kings of gas are Russia and Iran. Ooops.