The Truth About Cars » CNG http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 30 Sep 2014 15:17:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » CNG http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Chevrolet, Honda Give CNG Passenger Cars Another Chance http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/chevrolet-honda-give-cng-passenger-cars-another-chance/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/chevrolet-honda-give-cng-passenger-cars-another-chance/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=915178 Aside from a few trucks, some taxis and a fair number of buses, natural gas doesn’t receive a lot of play in the alternative energy game in comparison to darlings such as electric power and hydrogen. Despite this condition, Chevrolet and Honda are both ready to push natural gas onto commuters and efficiency-minded consumers alike. […]

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Aside from a few trucks, some taxis and a fair number of buses, natural gas doesn’t receive a lot of play in the alternative energy game in comparison to darlings such as electric power and hydrogen. Despite this condition, Chevrolet and Honda are both ready to push natural gas onto commuters and efficiency-minded consumers alike.

The Detroit News reports Honda recently introduced a new generation of its Civic Natural Gas model, featuring amenities like heated leather seats and premium sound systems the previous model lacked. Chevrolet, on the other hand, plans to bring a dual-fuel Impala to the party in a few months, being able to use either CNG or gasoline depending on the situation.

Though both brands are willing to give CNG passenger cars another shot, not too many others are as willing. Most automakers believe there’s no money or demand to be found in the alternative fuel, legislators are too focused on the in-crowd of energy solutions, and environmentalists are playing the long game instead of being in the present.

As for the vehicles themselves, both models will come straight from the factory with the same warranties as their gasoline-powered siblings, with the expectation of greater confidence in CNG from the consumer as a result. The Civic and Impala will likely drum up competition among other CNG vehicle manufacturers for the first time in a decade, as well.

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Michigan Performance Company Takes To Crowdfunding For CNG Mustang Concept http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/michigan-performance-company-takes-to-crowdfunding-for-cng-mustang-concept/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/michigan-performance-company-takes-to-crowdfunding-for-cng-mustang-concept/#comments Mon, 19 May 2014 13:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=826265 Crowdfunding has been used to deliver financing to projects ranging from fashion collections and film productions, to food trucks and the occasional work that ends up bombing while investors are left holding nothing (not even the bag their were promised as a gift for investing). This project may be a success or failure, but if […]

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Crowdfunding has been used to deliver financing to projects ranging from fashion collections and film productions, to food trucks and the occasional work that ends up bombing while investors are left holding nothing (not even the bag their were promised as a gift for investing).

This project may be a success or failure, but if all goes as promised, Michigan’s Performance CNG will be able to deliver a CNG-powered 2003 Ford Mustang while demonstrating all compressed natural gas can do in the name of energy independence.

Autoblog Green reports the company, headed by founder Daryl Patrishkoff, is attempting to raise $55,000 through IndieGoGo to pay for the battery of emissions testing required by the Environmental Protection Agency, acquisition of high-performance CNG parts, and engine calibration. Currently, the Mustang, which runs on gasoline and CNG paired with alcohol injection, puts out 470 horsepower, with the aim of adding more horses through the fundraising.

And what will the project deliver to its investors (beyond being named a contributor in all promotion material)? The hope others will take notice on natural gas, bringing their investment capital to the table with the goal of liberating the United States from foreign energy resources, adding jobs to the industry, and delivering a wide range of vehicles using CNG to the masses; as of this moment, only 120,000 vehicles use the fuel, the majority of which are buses and trucks.

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2015 Chevy Silverado HD Goes Green With CNG http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/2015-chevy-silverado-hd-goes-green-with-cng/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/2015-chevy-silverado-hd-goes-green-with-cng/#comments Fri, 07 Feb 2014 15:03:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=736329 In the ongoing battle in Green Valley below Truck Mountain, Chevrolet has unleashed a CNG conversion kit for both 2500 and 3500 variants of the 2015 Silverado HD. The kit allows the Silverado HD to run either compressed natural gas or gasoline at the flick of a switch, with the 6-liter V8 under the bonnet […]

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2015 Silverado 2500HD Bi-Fuel

In the ongoing battle in Green Valley below Truck Mountain, Chevrolet has unleashed a CNG conversion kit for both 2500 and 3500 variants of the 2015 Silverado HD.

The kit allows the Silverado HD to run either compressed natural gas or gasoline at the flick of a switch, with the 6-liter V8 under the bonnet pumping out 301 horsepower and 333 lb-ft torque on CNG, or 360 horses and 380 lb-ft on gasoline. Range is expected to reach 650 miles through the use of both fuels, while towing capacity remains at 13,000 pounds.

For operators of work-duty Silveradoes, the CNG conversion would save $2,000 annually on fuel costs for a truck that does 26,000 miles using CNG 75 percent of the time, due mainly to the lower per gallon cost of CNG over a gallon of gasoline.

The kit — made for use in single-wheel setups only — is available now on 2500HD double cab and crew cab models, while 2500HD single cab and all 3500HD styles will be available in July.

2015 Silverado 2500HD Bi-Fuel 2015 Silverado 2500HD Bi-Fuel

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2014 Honda Civic Hybrid On Sale Across U.S., CNG Civic to be Offered in 37 States http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/2014-honda-civic-hybrid-on-sale-across-u-s-cng-civic-to-be-offered-in-37-states/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/2014-honda-civic-hybrid-on-sale-across-u-s-cng-civic-to-be-offered-in-37-states/#comments Wed, 05 Feb 2014 18:30:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=733393 Honda has announced that the hybrid gas-electric version of the 2014 Civic is now available across the United States and that later this month the compressed natural gas powered Civic will join the lineup in 37 states. The hybrid is rated by the EPA at 44/47/45 city/highway/combined miles per gallon while the CNG Civic is […]

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Honda has announced that the hybrid gas-electric version of the 2014 Civic is now available across the United States and that later this month the compressed natural gas powered Civic will join the lineup in 37 states. The hybrid is rated by the EPA at 44/47/45 city/highway/combined miles per gallon while the CNG Civic is rated at 31 mpg across the board. Prices start at $24,635 for the hybrid and $26,640 for the CNG model.

The natural gas powered Civic comes with a $3,000 fuel credit that can be used at Clean Energy refueling stations. Clean Energy is the largest network of CNG stations in the U.S. If you live in an area not served by Clean Energy, your Civic CNG will come with a $2,000 prepaid debit card that you can use at other CNG stations.

The Civic CNG will not be sold in Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming.

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2013 Tokyo Motor Show: Mazda Goes Forward With CNG, Hybrids, Diesels http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/2013-tokyo-motor-show-mazda-goes-forward-with-cng-hybrids-diesels/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/2013-tokyo-motor-show-mazda-goes-forward-with-cng-hybrids-diesels/#comments Wed, 20 Nov 2013 00:24:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=656506 Last week,  Mazda CEO Masamichi Kogai said that the company had no plans for a production Wankel rotary anytime in the near future, though the company most identified with the engine that goes “hmmmm” will continue to do research on rotaries. Now, at the Tokyo Motor Show, Mazda is showing that its future powertrain plans […]

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Mazda3 Skyactiv-CNG Concept

Mazda3 Skyactiv-CNG Concept

Last week,  Mazda CEO Masamichi Kogai said that the company had no plans for a production Wankel rotary anytime in the near future, though the company most identified with the engine that goes “hmmmm” will continue to do research on rotaries. Now, at the Tokyo Motor Show, Mazda is showing that its future powertrain plans include diesel, natural gas and hybrid drives.

The Mazda3 SKYACTIV-CNG Concept is a dual fuel vehicle that has tanks for both gasoline and compressed natural gas. It used a modified version of Mazda’s 2.0 liter four that’s currently available in the Mazda3. The Mazda3 is sold as the Axela in Japan and the company is also introducing the Axela SKYACTIV-HYBRID. The 2.0 L four cylinder hand has had the compression ration increased to a whopping 14.0:1 and it and a 84 HP electric motor drive the front wheels through an electronically controled CVT.

Like the Toyota Prius it used NiMH batteries and like the Prius it has a total of 134 HP. Fuel efficiency based on Japan’s JC08 standard is rated at 72.4 MPG. Finally, Mazda is announcing that the SKYACTIV-D 2.2 clean diesel engine, soon to be available in the U.S. in the Mazda, will be offered in Japanese domestic market versions of the CX-5 and the Mazda3. It will be interesting to see what kind of torque-steer the Mazda3 can develop with 310 lb-ft of twist.

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Ford’s Transit Taxi To Connect Passengers Worldwide http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/fords-transit-taxi-to-connect-passengers-worldwide/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/fords-transit-taxi-to-connect-passengers-worldwide/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 17:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=631698 With a few successes under Ford’s strap with the American buckle, the Blue Oval made be known its aspirations to go for the world championship belt in ferrying drunk revelers and harried air travelers with their Transit Connect Taxi in its debut in Hong Kong. “Ford Transit Connect Taxi has proven itself in taxi fleets […]

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Ford-Transit-Connect-Hong-Kong-Main-ArtWith a few successes under Ford’s strap with the American buckle, the Blue Oval made be known its aspirations to go for the world championship belt in ferrying drunk revelers and harried air travelers with their Transit Connect Taxi in its debut in Hong Kong.

“Ford Transit Connect Taxi has proven itself in taxi fleets across the U.S.,” said Ford’s head of global product development Raj Nair in a statement. “Now, we are building on that success, offering the vehicle for sale in even more markets, including global cities like Hong Kong.” The taxi, set to go on sale in 2014 globally, will run off of Hong Kong’s liquefied petroleum gas infrastructure, an option that has been available since 2010 in the U.S. domestic market alongside compressed natural gas and gasoline.

Under the hood, a 2.5-liter engine attached to a six-speed automatic will keep things moving smoothly, or as smooth as driving (or riding in) a taxi can be, at least. The new taxi is longer than the previous domestic-only models, with seating for up to five and more room for the myriad of baggage travelers will be dragging tiredly behind them. The taxi is also shorter for more clearance for strip club adverts on the roof, with a lower floor allowing for easier access, especially if converted for wheelchair use.

In exchange for spreading the love of the Transit Connect Taxi around the world, Ford has plans to bring the Transit Connect Wagon from Europe to the United States for the 2014 model year. The people carrier holds seven, and sips down a gallon of fuel every 30 miles on the highway. Ford truck communications manager Mike Levine has high hopes for the newest addition to the family:

We believe there’s an opportunity. The Transit Connect Wagon is virtually the same size as seven-passenger minvans were when they were introduced in the 1980s. Since then, they’ve gotten too big, too expensive and consume too much fuel.

The Transit Connect Taxi currently serves markets in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami, with the Blue Oval owning 60 percent of the taxi market. Ford offers the C-MAX Hybrid for taxi service, as well.

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Chevrolet To Offer CNG-Powered Impala http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/chevrolet-to-offer-cng-powered-impala/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/chevrolet-to-offer-cng-powered-impala/#comments Thu, 17 Oct 2013 13:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=625929 Looking to take advantage of the natural gas boom currently occurring in America, Chevrolet will market a bi-fuel version of its Impala sedan starting next year. With the ability to run on either gasoline or CNG, the Impala will be offered primarily to fleet customers starting in the summer of 2014. The CNG Impala will […]

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Looking to take advantage of the natural gas boom currently occurring in America, Chevrolet will market a bi-fuel version of its Impala sedan starting next year.

With the ability to run on either gasoline or CNG, the Impala will be offered primarily to fleet customers starting in the summer of 2014. The CNG Impala will be offered as a 2015 model, with Chevrolet only expecting to move 750 to 1,000 units. The car will have a second tank for CNG in the trunk and should offer a combined range of 500 miles. GM CEO Dan Akerson was vague about the price premium for the car, suggesting it could be at least “a couple thousand” dollars. Other vehicles, like the Honda Civic and Ford F-150, carry premiums ranging from $3,000 to $7,500 for the CNG option.

Other auto makers such as Chrysler and Volkswagen have expressed interest in CNG. Chrysler offers a CNG powered Ram 2500 pickup, but lack of demand, as well as infrastructure, have been cited as potential stumbling blocks.

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Ford F-150 Now Available With CNG/LPG Prep Package, Most Ford Trucks Now Cooking With Gas http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/ford-f-150-now-available-with-cnglpg-prep-package-most-ford-trucks-now-cooking-with-gas/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/ford-f-150-now-available-with-cnglpg-prep-package-most-ford-trucks-now-cooking-with-gas/#comments Fri, 02 Aug 2013 11:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=497807 Starting with the 2014 model year, for the first time Ford will be offering F-150 buyers the option of running on compressed natural gas or liquid propane gas in addition to gasoline. Automotive News reports that interested can spec a F-150 with the 3.7 liter V6 engine, and then receive a factory-installed CNG/LPG prep package […]

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Starting with the 2014 model year, for the first time Ford will be offering F-150 buyers the option of running on compressed natural gas or liquid propane gas in addition to gasoline. Automotive News reports that interested can spec a F-150 with the 3.7 liter V6 engine, and then receive a factory-installed CNG/LPG prep package that includes hardened valves, valve seats, pistons and rings. The actual conversions would be done by six CNG/LPG conversion companies that have been certified by Ford as “qualified vehicle modifiers”. As long as the conversion is done by one of those six firms, Ford will honor all factory warranties on the engine. Depending on the size of the fuel tank that’s installed, the cost of the conversions will be between $8,000 and $11,000 a vehicle, but running on gas can be significantly cheaper than running on gasoline or diesel, and the cost of the conversion can be more than paid back over the life of the vehicle.

A gallon of CNG is currently averaging $2.06 in the U.S. Ford projects that it will sell 25% more CNG/LPG prepared vehicles this year than last, more than 15,000 trucks. Since the F-150 pickup is Ford’s biggest selling vehicle in general, 2014 will likely see a significant increase as well. Ford now offers nearly all of its commercial vehicles with the CNG/LPG prep package, including the Transit Connect, the upcoming Transit full size vans, E-series ‘Econoline’ vans, F-series Super Duty trucks & chassis cabs in both F-350 and F-550 sizes, the F-650 medium duty truck and now the F-150.

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Marchionne: CNG Would Kill Our Reliance On Foreign Oil http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/marchionne-cng-would-kill-our-reliance-on-foreign-oil/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/marchionne-cng-would-kill-our-reliance-on-foreign-oil/#comments Wed, 31 Oct 2012 12:57:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=465482 Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne finds it “most shocking” that the U.S. auto industry is not throwing its might behind natural gas, which has been found in abundance in the United States: “A rapid adoption of CNG as a fuel source for automotive applications would almost instantly kill the reliance on foreign oil, and […]

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Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne finds it “most shocking” that the U.S. auto industry is not throwing its might behind natural gas, which has been found in abundance in the United States:

“A rapid adoption of CNG as a fuel source for automotive applications would almost instantly kill the reliance on foreign oil, and it would bring about a substantial reduction in emissions. Those are opportunities that need to be grabbed and they need to be industrialized. Especially with large vehicles like pickups and large SUVs, we could probably accommodate the installation of CNG tanks within the next 24 to 36 months.”

Marchionne said this on the sidelines of an industry convention in Shanghai, China, over the weekend, but it wasn’t reported. Reporters instead pestered Marchionne with inane questions whether bringing Jeep production to China would cost jobs in the U.S., or Italy. Both of which Marchionne answered for the umpteenth time with a no. Poor reporting by unscrupulous bloggers has been blamed for the rumor that Jeep production would be outsourced to China, but correspondents of major U.S. newspapers tried their best in Shanghai to keep the rumor alive. At the same time, they buried the story on how to end U.S. dependence on foreign oil and to put an end to global warming – at least as far as Sergio Marchionne is concerned.

Sergio by the way doesn’t think ethanol has much future in the U.S. Sergio thinks alcohol as fuel works for Brazil where, “from a global standpoint, producing ethanol probably is the most efficient use of their sugarcane.” It was tried in Africa, and it failed. And, said Marchionne, he is “making no comments on the U.S. side of ethanol production which relies on grains.” We take it, Sergio doesn’t think it’s a good idea.

Asked why alternative fuels aren’t adopted in wholesale fashion the world over, Marchionne started “the dominance of oil …” Then he checked himself, took a big breath, and said “I am not pointing fingers on big oil being responsible for anything.” He continued to say that the existence of big oil as a big business with established refinery capacity in most of the developed countries is a force to be reckoned with.

A day later, on Monday, it turned out the Chrysler doesn’t need two or three years to install tanks on trucks. The first Ram 2500 Compressed Natural Gas pickup trucks started rolling off the line at Chrysler’s Satillo Truck Assembly Plant.

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CNG Developer: Incentives? We Don’t Need No Stinking Incentives http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/cng-developer-incentives-we-dont-need-no-incentives/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/cng-developer-incentives-we-dont-need-no-incentives/#comments Wed, 03 Oct 2012 18:35:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=462636 “We do not need incentives for natural gas technology to drive adoption,” Bill Larkin, CFO of Westport Innovations, a Vancouver-based developer of technology that allows truck and bus engines to run on natural gas, told Reuters in an interview:  “It actually hurts the investment in this technology because the U.S. government has been dangling this […]

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“We do not need incentives for natural gas technology to drive adoption,” Bill Larkin, CFO of Westport Innovations, a Vancouver-based developer of technology that allows truck and bus engines to run on natural gas, told Reuters in an interview:

 “It actually hurts the investment in this technology because the U.S. government has been dangling this carrot … and so investments are delayed.”

While billions of tax payer money are spent on electrification programs with dubious prospects (and a few certain duds,) the U.S. sits on a mountain of natural gas. Prices of natural gas are coming off decade lows as production soars from U.S. shale fields.

Larkin is glad that the U.S. Senate’s rejected proposed tax incentives for long-haul trucks and commercial vehicles to switch to CNG. At about $1.33 per gallon, the cost of CNG is around half of gasoline, more than enough of an incentive to make the relatively low-tech switch. Natural gas produces lower emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and greenhouse gases than gasoline or diesel.

 

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States To Carmakers: “CNG! CNG! CNG! CNG!” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/states-to-carmakers-cng-cng-cng-cng/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/states-to-carmakers-cng-cng-cng-cng/#comments Thu, 09 Aug 2012 17:58:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=456127 Cars that use little or no gasoline seem to have a bit of a hard time, no matter how badly people want them. 22 states decided to do something unusual: They tell American carmakers to make natural gas-powered vehicles, and the states will buy them for state fleets.     Yesterday, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin […]

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Cars that use little or no gasoline seem to have a bit of a hard time, no matter how badly people want them. 22 states decided to do something unusual: They tell American carmakers to make natural gas-powered vehicles, and the states will buy them for state fleets.    

Yesterday, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin met with automobile manufacturers and dealers, and purchasing officials from more than a dozen states in Oklahoma City, CBS reports. 22 states join forces to solicit bids for the purchase of natural gas-powered vehicles for state fleets. Said the Governor:

“We’re serious. We’re ready to buy natural gas vehicles now. We all know that natural gas is a cleaner form of energy. It’s an abundant form of energy. It’s a less expensive and cheaper form of energy, one that will not only create American-made jobs, it will be good for our national security and economic security.”

The states have joined to issue an RFP. Responses from auto manufacturers and dealers are due Sept. 7, and purchasing officials expect award a contract by Oct. 5. The contract calls for  60 compact sedans, 850 mid- to full-size sedans, 400 half-ton trucks and 480 three-quarter ton trucks, all natural gas powered.

 

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Eaton, GE Working On Affordable CNG Home Refueling Stations http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/eaton-ge-working-on-affordable-cng-home-refueling-stations/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/eaton-ge-working-on-affordable-cng-home-refueling-stations/#comments Mon, 23 Jul 2012 14:49:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=453875 America may be the world’s up-and-c0ming natural gas producer, but if you have a car powered by CNG, good luck finding a station. CNG terminals are thin on the ground in certain parts of the country, and half of them are closed to the public. While Honda was formerly in partnership with a home refueling […]

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America may be the world’s up-and-c0ming natural gas producer, but if you have a car powered by CNG, good luck finding a station. CNG terminals are thin on the ground in certain parts of the country, and half of them are closed to the public.

While Honda was formerly in partnership with a home refueling station company, the history of the unit, known as the “Phill” has been rocky, and the system has largely disappeared from the spotlight.

Just-Auto is reporting that the Phill won’t be the sole contender for much longer – Eaton, a major automotive supplier, is apparently working on a lower-cost home refueling station - with a target price of around $500 (versus $4,500 for the Phill).

General Electric is also getting into the act, with their own low-cost charger program and a promising new technology, known as CNG In A Box, which

takes natural gas from a pipeline and compresses it on-site at an industrial location or at a traditional automotive refilling station to then turns it into CNG, making it faster, easier and less expensive for users to fuel up natural gas vehicles.

Natural gas prices may be the big variable here. Prices can’t stay at record lows forever, but as long as they stay low enough to make it a viable fueling option, expect to see the disciples of T. Boone Pickens making a big push. Eaton’s own system isn’t expected to come out until 2015 – who knows what could happen in three years?

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General Motors Looking To Cut Engine Lineup By 40 Percent, Add CNG Capability http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/general-motors-looking-to-cut-engine-lineup-by-40-percent-add-cng-capability/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/general-motors-looking-to-cut-engine-lineup-by-40-percent-add-cng-capability/#comments Fri, 29 Jun 2012 16:14:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=450683 GM’s Dan Akerson spoke to the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board on Thursday, and discussed both compressed natural gas capabilities, and the need to streamline powertrains in the post-bankruptcy era. Akerson is looking to reduce the number of engines offered by 40 percent, telling the Tribune “Now that we have gone from eight car brands before […]

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GM’s Dan Akerson spoke to the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board on Thursday, and discussed both compressed natural gas capabilities, and the need to streamline powertrains in the post-bankruptcy era.

Akerson is looking to reduce the number of engines offered by 40 percent, telling the Tribune

“Now that we have gone from eight car brands before bankruptcy, we look to do the same with engines,” 

The issue of natural gas powerplants was also discussed briefly, with Akerson touting the low cost of natural gas and emerging technology to extract natural gas from shale rock formations. Akerson has previously said that dual-fuel CNG/gasoline engines are the way to go due to a lack of CNG infrastructure, but a national energy policy mandating “…a gas station that offers CNG every three or four blocks…” would help.

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Ask An Engineer: Natural Gas For Dummies http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/ask-an-engineer-natural-gas-for-dummies/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/ask-an-engineer-natural-gas-for-dummies/#comments Wed, 27 Jun 2012 15:49:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=450553 Westport Innovations has just signed a second deal with General Motors to produce light duty natural gas engines, and it’s probably not the last time we’ll be seeing these kind of partnerships forming. Natural gas vehicles have been explored previously on TTAC, but the technology hasn’t been fully explored in-depth, aside from some well-informed comments […]

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Westport Innovations has just signed a second deal with General Motors to produce light duty natural gas engines, and it’s probably not the last time we’ll be seeing these kind of partnerships forming. Natural gas vehicles have been explored previously on TTAC, but the technology hasn’t been fully explored in-depth, aside from some well-informed comments in various articles.

As a fuel for vehicles (light duty as well as commercial vehicles), natural gas has a number of attributes which fit well with our current political narratives and economic realities

  1. Natural gas is 30-50% cheaper than diesel per unit of energy
  2. Abundant domestic supply
  3. Environmental benefits (lower GHG and tailpipe emissions)
  4. Significant reduction in CO2, CO, UHC, NOx, SOx and PM emissions versus conventional gasoline and diesel engines.

Natural gas can be used across the full spectrum of spark ignition (gasoline type) and compression ignition (diesel type) engines with the appropriate enabling technologies. While spark ignition natural gas engines have been available for quite some time (such as the NG powered Honda Civic), compression ignition natural gas engines have required further development. The difficulty is that while natural gas burns cleanly, it is less likely to auto-ignite (octane rating of 120-130), unlike diesel, which has a lower octane number. This quality of natural gas is advantageous for a spark ignition engine as it prevents detonation and allows for higher compression ratios, but makes it detrimental for a compression ignition engine.

Westport has devised a dual-fuel direct injection system to enable natural gas substitution in a compression ignition engine. The fuel injector at the heart of this system is able to inject both liquid diesel and gaseous natural gas in precisely metered quantities directly into the cylinder. In this system, the diesel fuel ignites as a result of compression as it would in a regular diesel engine. The combusting diesel fuel initiates the natural gas combustion. 93-95% diesel substitution is achievable according to public documentation. This innovation is directed at the heavy-duty diesel market which includes everything from transport trucks to locomotives.

One of the main criticisms is the lack of infrastructure surrounding natural gas. Compressed natural gas (CNG) is easier to store and transport than liquefied natural gas (LNG) so it is the optimal choice for light duty applications. LNG has a greater volumetric energy density but is more expensive to store, transport and ultimately use in a vehicle as it must be kept cold and pressurized to remain a liquid.

Vehicles like the Civic Natural Gas have a reduced range relative to a gasoline Civic, but commercial vehicles, like transport trucks, are emerging as one of the prime candidates for natural gas engines. Large transport trucks are a significant contributor to green house gas emissions and are on the road enough to make the conversion cost effective – though LNG, rather than CNG, would be the fuel of choice. A relatively small number of LNG filling stations placed along major transport corridors could meet their fueling needs and present a great way to thoroughly evaluate the technology. Less complex CNG stations could be added if the decision was made to target light duty vehicles.

Going “all in” on CNG/LNG is a little premature at this point, but the adoption of natural gas as a transport fuel is a good first step in reducing our emissions while other alternative technologies reach maturity. More in-depth discussion is always welcome in the comments.

“Ask an Engineer” is hosted by Andrew Bell, a mechanical engineer and car enthusiast. Andrew has his MASc in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Toronto, and has worked on Formula SAE teams, as well as alternative fuel technologies in Denmark and Canada. Andrew’s column will explore engineering topics in the most accessible manner possible.

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Review: 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/review-2012-honda-civic-natural-gas/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/review-2012-honda-civic-natural-gas/#comments Wed, 23 May 2012 16:51:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=443940 Since 1998 Honda has been quietly producing one of the cleanest vehicles in America. In 2001 the EPA called its engine “the cleanest burning internal combustion engine in the world.” No, it’s not a hybrid, it’s Honda’s Civic Natural Gas (formerly known as the Civic GX). Until now, the Civic Natural Gas has only been […]

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Since 1998 Honda has been quietly producing one of the cleanest vehicles in America. In 2001 the EPA called its engine “the cleanest burning internal combustion engine in the world.” No, it’s not a hybrid, it’s Honda’s Civic Natural Gas (formerly known as the Civic GX). Until now, the Civic Natural Gas has only been available for retail sale in a handful of states like California and New York. For 2012, Honda expanded sales to 37 states and lent us one for a week.

As Honda dropped off the CNG Civic one bright Tuesday morning, I realized I had absolutely no idea what I had gotten myself into. Like most of the motoring public, I didn’t know much about CNG and it was only when the compact sedan arrived that I asked: “where do I fill this thing up?” Once I found a CNG station, I realized I had no idea how to fill it up either. If you’re dying to know, check out our video below.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The all-new 9th generation exterior is instantly recognizable as a Civic. While there are virtually no carryover parts from 2011, the changes are subtle enough to be a refresh. Unlike the Civic Hybrid, which gains a few blue-tinted trim bits and some LED brake lights to set it apart from the rabble, the only way to identify the Civic Natural Gas is by the legally required blue diamond CNG logo on the trunk lid. (The sticker is supposed to help emergency responders know that high-pressure gas lurks within.) Limited production means limited options, and you can get your Civic Natural gas in any color you want so long as its light grey, dark grey, periwinkle or white.

Interior

The Civic Natural Gas started out  in 1998 as a cleaner alternative for the meter maids parking enforcement specialists in Los Angeles. Since then, the majority of gaseous sales have gone to fleet customers looking for lower operating costs, a green image and a vehicle that uses the same fueling infrastructure as their vans and buses. Honda’s focus on fleet customers (and their needs) is obvious by the lack of options found on Honda’s retail-focused models. The interior is only available in one color scheme, with cloth seats and only one option: Honda’s touchscreen nav system. You won’t find leather seats, automatic climate control, heated seats, or an up-level speaker package at any price.

 

Drivetrain

Under the hood beats the biggest change: a re-worked 1.8L engine. This is one of the few engines in the world built specifically for CNG. Unlike conversion kits that blow gas into the air intake, the Civic uses a CNG  multi-port injection system. To compensate for the lower energy density of CNG, the compression ratio is increased from 10.6 to 12.7. Despite this, power drops from 140HP to 110HP while torque goes from 128lb-ft to 106lb-ft. Honda toyed with a CVT in the past, but for 2012, the 5-speed automatic from the regular Civic makes a cameo. I’m probably the only car guy to wish the CVT from the hybrid was under the hood as it would have improved the fuel economy

According to the EPA, this engine produces 70-90% lower smog forming emissions, 20-30% lower CO2 and virtually no evaporative emissions when compared to a regular Civic. It’s smog numbers and CO2 numbers are lower than VW’s most efficient clean diesel and it delivers considerably lower NOx and particulate emissions when compared to clean diesels. A side benefit of CNG engines is improved spark plug and oil life as there are fewer impurities to foul either one.

 

Cargo

Sound too good to be true? There are a few problems. First off, natural gas must be stored in a pressure cylinder. By their design, these cylinders are large, need to be placed somewhere safe, and can’t be shaped like your typical gas tank. This means the cylinder is in the trunk and cargo space gets cut in half from 12.5 cubic feet to 6.1. As you can see below, it is still possible to fit two carry-on sized roller bags and some small hand luggage in the trunk, but larger items like large strollers might not fit.

 

About CNG

According to the EPA, CNG is a plentiful and as a result, 87% of the natural gas consumed in the United States in 2011 was produced domestically. The rest came from Canada and Mexico. If you are simply seeking to reduce this country’s dependence on foreign energy without changing your lifestyle, CNG is one of your better options. While there are about 120,000 CNG powered vehicles in the United States, most of them are buses. You want something other than a cargo or people hauler, the Civic is the only factory built CNG vehicle around.

Since virtually all natural gas consumed in America comes from underground deposits created by ancient decaying matter, it’s not a renewable resource in its current form. Unlike gasoline, diesel and liquid propane, natural gas isn’t sold by the gallon. Instead, it is served up by the Gasoline Gallon Equivalent or GGE. At 3,600psi this equates to 0.51 cubic feet of gas. In California we averaged $2.19 per GGE while gasoline was around $4.27 a gallon.

 

Finding CNG can be tricky as there are only 1,000 stations in the US, and half of them are closed to the public. Approximately 250 public stations are available in California with New York and Utah coming in second and third at 101 and 84 respectively. Operating your CNG Civic in a state like Texas could be tricky, with both long driving distances and only 36 stations to fill up at. Most stations are located near airports and industrial areas, so if your commute takes you near these locations it’s an easy sell. While there are home refueling stations available, Honda does not recommend them as they may not sufficiently dry the gas and allow moisture to build up in the tank. The home unit costs $4,900 without installation and is only good for 3,000 GGE of CNG. Although not recommended, it is much cheaper to fill up at home, with an estimated cost per GGE of $1.43 in California. While the CNG station nearest to my home is 20 miles away, there are several on the way to my office and one only 0.2 miles from my office, making commuter-car use a real option for me.

 

Infotainment

Honda’s Civic Natural Gas carries a mid-range feature set despite its price tag. This means that although a nav system is available (the only option on the CNG), upgraded speakers are not. The sound quality is mediocre with dull highs and muddy lows. Remember, this is a fleet-oriented vehicle. The only real reason to get the factory nav system is that it is preloaded with a CNG station database which can be handy if you don’t have a smartphone. If you have a smartphone, stick with the base radio and get a CNG finder app.

 

Drive

Out on the road the Civic Natural Gas drives just like a regular Civic, with less power. From a standstill, 60 arrives in 10.9 seconds, about 2 seconds slower than a regular Civic, but only 3/4 of a second behind the hybrid. When it comes to road holding, the CNG performs essentially the same as a regular Civic LX sedan, since Honda chose not to use low rolling resistance rubber on the CNG like they did on the hybrid.

Savings

You should know that essentially all the tax credits for CNG vehicles have evaporated. This means your CNG Civic is a whopping $6,710 more than a comparably equipped Civic LX and even $2,105 more than a Civic Hybrid. Based on current fuel costs in northern California, it would take 5.5 years for the CNG to break even with the Hybrid and 7.5 with the Civic LX. The Civic Natural Gas has a trump card to play in California: Solo carpool usage. If you live on the left coast as I do, and “enjoy” a “healthy” commute, the CNG may just be the best investment you could make in your family. On my daily commute, being able to drive in the carpool lane saved me 25-35 minutes of commute time per day. That adds up to 125 hours less commuting a year, or 5.2 days less time in a car on my commute. The scarcity of CNG filling stations will continue to ensure Civic Natural Gas sales remain low. However, for those that live near CNG infrastructure, the Civic Natural gas makes an interesting proposition. While it will take nearly a decade to justify the cost of buying one, in states like California where you can use the HOV lane, it presents quite a different reason to buy one. It also makes a compelling case against EVs, as America is the land of coal and gas power plants, the CO2 emissions from the CNG Civic are similar or lower than the Leaf depending on the state you live in.

 

Honda provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 4.2 Seconds

0-60: 10.9 Seconds

Average fuel economy: 35.2MPG over 820 Miles

 

2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, front, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, front, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), CA carpool sticker, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), CNG logo, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), refueling, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), refueling, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), refueling, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), refueling, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), CNG prices , Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, front, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, driver's side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, dashboard , Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, dashboard , Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, steering wheel, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, steering wheel, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, HVAC controls, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Trunk /  Cargo room, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Trunk /  Cargo room, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, tachometer, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, instrument cluster, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, fuel economy, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, radio / infotainment, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, ECO button, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, door switches, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Engine, 1.8L CNG, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Engine, 1.8L CNG, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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GM’s Pickup Truck CNG Conversion Costs $11,000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/gms-pickup-truck-cng-conversion-costs-11000/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/gms-pickup-truck-cng-conversion-costs-11000/#comments Wed, 18 Apr 2012 19:50:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=440643 Compressed natural gas may cost the equivalent of $1.89 per gallon of gasoline, but retrofitting your GMC Sierra or Chevrolet Silverado will cost you $11,000 – and GM still think it will save you money. According to GM, “…Customers could save $5,000 to $10,000 over a three-year period, depending on their driving habits.” How GM […]

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Compressed natural gas may cost the equivalent of $1.89 per gallon of gasoline, but retrofitting your GMC Sierra or Chevrolet Silverado will cost you $11,000 – and GM still think it will save you money.

According to GM, “…Customers could save $5,000 to $10,000 over a three-year period, depending on their driving habits.” How GM came to this number is a bit of a mystery, and we’re doing some digging to try and figure it out – because it’s a conversion, there is no EPA rating on it and data is difficult to find.

What we did notice was this little tidbit

Businesses are looking for ways to control their costs while reducing vehicle emissions and becoming less dependent on fluctuating gas prices. The low cost of ownership makes these vehicles a realistic solution,” 

$11,000 is a lot of cash for a business to tie up in one truck. In the absence of any data on how many miles it would take to break even (as well as the gas price number used to come up with it), it appears that GM is hoping to sway buyers with the prospect of unstable or rising fuel prices in the future. Emissions are almost certainly a secondary concern. It’s a wonder that GM didn’t promote the fact that CNG can legitimately claim to be a domestically sourced form of clean energy, seeing as they (barely) did back in March.

We contacted GM to try and get more information on the CNG conversion, and more specifically, how they came to their savings figures. Please leave all accusations of anti-GM bias, skulduggery and wrongdoing in the comments section.

EDIT: General Motors says that they calculated the savings based on a truck driving 24,000 miles a year, with gas prices at $4 per gallon and a CNG gallon equivalent of $2. GM’s Mike Jones, Product Manager for Fleet and Commercial Operations, thinks that there will continue to be “…a pretty significant price separation…” between gasoline and CNG.

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Hertz To Rent CNG Vehicles, Pilot Program Begins In May http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/hertz-to-rent-cng-vehicles-pilot-program-begins-in-may/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/hertz-to-rent-cng-vehicles-pilot-program-begins-in-may/#comments Thu, 12 Apr 2012 12:09:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=439551   If you’re traveling to Oklahoma City any time soon, Herz will give you the option of renting a Honda Civic or GMC Yukon that runs on Compressed Natural Gas. Renters will be able to select from one of eight Honda Civics or two GMC Yukons that use CNG. The vehicles will have a Hertz […]

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If you’re traveling to Oklahoma City any time soon, Herz will give you the option of renting a Honda Civic or GMC Yukon that runs on Compressed Natural Gas.

Renters will be able to select from one of eight Honda Civics or two GMC Yukons that use CNG. The vehicles will have a Hertz Neverlost GPS System on-board that will assist with locating a CNG refueling station.

Oklahoma may be “flyover country” for coastal greenie types, but OKC is home to big natural gas producers, including Chesapeake Energy Corporation. The state also has 70 CNG stations that are already in use or about to come online. Launching a pilot project here is akin to launching an all-E85 fleet in Iowa. Hertz is, of course, playing up both the green angle and the fact that CNG is a domestically produced fuel.

Hertz already rents CNG vehicles in Italy and the UK, and CNG cars can be rented at a Hertz outlet at Oklahoma State University, but this marks the first time that the company has offered CNG cars at an airport location.

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Low Natural Gas Prices Aren’t Spurring Demand For NGVs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/low-natural-gas-prices-arent-spurring-demand-for-ngvs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/low-natural-gas-prices-arent-spurring-demand-for-ngvs/#comments Mon, 02 Apr 2012 16:42:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=437701 Even with gasoline prices reaching higher and higher, and natural gas prices at decade lows, consumers are doing as little as possible to adopt natural gas vehicles. As investment blog Seeking Alpha found out, the answer isn’t so complex. The issue is of course, a classic chicken-and-egg problem. Looking at fleet customers as an example, […]

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Even with gasoline prices reaching higher and higher, and natural gas prices at decade lows, consumers are doing as little as possible to adopt natural gas vehicles. As investment blog Seeking Alpha found out, the answer isn’t so complex.

The issue is of course, a classic chicken-and-egg problem. Looking at fleet customers as an example, a firm called PLS Logistics published a white paper on natural gas vehicles (specifically, LNG, or liquefied natural gas, commonly used in commercial applications like trucking). The biggest stumbling block by far was the lack of infrastructure available for fueling NGVs. Even in the face of substantial awareness about NGVs, as well as optimism that they will be adopted in the future in some capacity, literally no one is planning on purchasing NGVs in the next 12 months.

One interesting takeaway is that a quarter of respondents thought that there was zero price difference between diesel and natural gas. Natural gas is about $1.50 per diesel equivalent gallon (the unit used by PLS to measure an equivalent quantity of natural gas). Good news for NGVs comes in the form of a GE-backed project to build 250 filling stations for both CNG and LNG fuels - though as Seeking Alpha notes, demand for NGVs may be affected as much by low natural gas prices as high gasoline prices.

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Ford Bets On Ecoboost, Chrysler And GM On Natural Gas For Pickups http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/ford-bets-on-ecoboost-chrysler-and-gm-on-natural-gas-for-pickups/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/ford-bets-on-ecoboost-chrysler-and-gm-on-natural-gas-for-pickups/#comments Mon, 12 Mar 2012 20:47:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=434734 While both General Motors and Chrysler are putting their money on Compressed Natural Gas options for their pickup-truck lineups, Ford is going with pretty much everything but CNG as it examines alternative fuel strategies for future vehicles – and for now, the 3.5L Ecoboost V6 will be the standard bearer for light duty versions of […]

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While both General Motors and Chrysler are putting their money on Compressed Natural Gas options for their pickup-truck lineups, Ford is going with pretty much everything but CNG as it examines alternative fuel strategies for future vehicles – and for now, the 3.5L Ecoboost V6 will be the standard bearer for light duty versions of the Ford F-Series.

Automotive News spoke with Ford product development boss Raj Nair, who told the outlet

“Relative to what we’re achieving with EcoBoost and our electrification strategy in the U.S., what we’re achieving with the diesel strategy here in Europe and elsewhere, those are more solid bets to put really solid investments in for mainstream offerings,” 

Nair also cited CNG’s lack of infrastructure as another reason to avoid CNG. But Chrysler’s Ram Tradesman pickup will come in a CNG powered variant, while GM will offer a Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra with a 6.0L V8 that can switch between CNG and regular gasoline.

Buried in the article is a quote from Nair stating that Ford will

“…do conversions for pickups that would allow them to run on natural gas, Nair said. The market for trucks using the technology will be “very dependent on what the regulatory environment is going to be.”

So, Ford is still hedging their bets, and looking to see if this “Made in America” fuel will get the kind of economic incentives that EVs and plug-ins  are privy to. Chrysler and GM will join Honda as the big purveyors of CNG powered cars in the United States – Honda sells the Civic GX in small volumes.

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Honda Tells Dealers: Build CNG Fueling Stations, And They Will Come http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/honda-tells-dealers-build-cng-fueling-stations-and-they-will-come/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/honda-tells-dealers-build-cng-fueling-stations-and-they-will-come/#comments Fri, 09 Mar 2012 19:05:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=434458 This is the Honda Civic GX, a vehicle that runs on propane and propane accessories compressed natural gas. Despite the Civic GX’s title as one of America’s “Greenest Vehicles“, the Civic GX is pricey, and CNG refueling stations are few and far between – apparently there are only 830 in the entire United States, with […]

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This is the Honda Civic GX, a vehicle that runs on propane and propane accessories compressed natural gas. Despite the Civic GX’s title as one of America’s “Greenest Vehicles“, the Civic GX is pricey, and CNG refueling stations are few and far between – apparently there are only 830 in the entire United States, with not all of them open to the public. Honda wants to change that – but it wants dealers to bear the costs, monetary and otherwise, of building new fueling outlets.

Honda’s Steve Center, in charge of environmental business development, wants to put CNG fueling stations in at least two dealerships in California this year. Center told Bloomberg

“If the dealer had a fueling station, it would really reduce some of that concern for the customer,” Center said at Honda’s U.S. headquarters in Torrance, California. “It’s not our place to create infrastructure, but it’s a chicken-and-egg situation and we’re going to have to nurse that egg along.”

So, it’s not Honda’s place to build infrastructure - but the dealers can go ahead and do it. The costs of the project weren’t disclosed, but off the bat there appears to be some value in installing these stations; getting customers to keep coming back to the dealer can help them build relationships, sell aftermarket parts, servicing other vehicles and build good will among customers.

Honda’s pitch appears to be in the beginning stages, but one can guess how they’re going to market the CNG Civic; great fuel economy, from a clean, domestic energy source that’s also free from serious range anxiety (the Civic GX gets about 225-250 miles per tank). In addition to the dealer filling stations, there are home units available too – but they take about 8-10 hours to fill the car up (since the gas isn’t pressurized like commercial stations) and cost about $3,400 for the unit alone.

The days of Jim Cardiges and kickbacks are long over, but there’s no reason to think that there may be positive incentives to signing on with the program. Maybe there will be a better allocation of cars. Maybe warranty claims would get paid quicker. Maybe co-op advertising campaigns would get a bigger share of their costs picked up by Honda. For now, this looks like a test program, and Honda will be helping dealers get financing, incentives and approval from local governments. Yesterday’s initial article on natural gas vehicles (yes, including LPG/Propane as well as CNG vehicles) had great commentary from the B&B, particularly on the drawbacks of natural gas vehicles.  I’m confident that the increasing price of gas along with the eminently marketable angle of a domestic clean energy source means we’ll be hearing a lot more about natural gas in light vehicles, regardless of the fuel’s merits.

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Will Natural Gas Prevent Us From Reaching A Better Place? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/will-natural-gas-prevent-us-from-reaching-a-better-place/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/will-natural-gas-prevent-us-from-reaching-a-better-place/#comments Thu, 08 Mar 2012 16:56:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=434384 A brief piece in the Wall Street Journal’s “Dealbook” discussed the potential of natural gas powered vehicles, largely as a way to stop falling prices for natural gas. One hope for many natural gas producers reeling from collapsing prices is wider adoption of natural-gas-powered cars. The biggest hurdle so far: lack of infrastructure to refuel […]

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A brief piece in the Wall Street Journal’s “Dealbook” discussed the potential of natural gas powered vehicles, largely as a way to stop falling prices for natural gas.

One hope for many natural gas producers reeling from collapsing prices is wider adoption of natural-gas-powered cars.

The biggest hurdle so far: lack of infrastructure to refuel them.

But Steven Mueller, CEO of Southwestern Energy, says if 10% of passenger cars were powered by natural gas, gasoline prices would fall by $1.60/gallon and gas producers would get 4 billion cubic feet/day in demand.

The global supply of natural gas is way up, thanks to shale deposits in the United States and other locales. Currently, the Honda Civic GX is the best-known CNG vehicle on sale currently. Buses, taxis and other commercial vehicles have been running on CNG for years, but Dodge is set to introduce a Ram Tradesman that can run on CNG – other work trucks have been converted to run on natural gas by their owners (at significant expense), but this looks to be one of the first OEM-engineered work trucks with this capability.

An NPR report (sponsored by a natural gas lobby group) touched on President Obama’s visit to a big rig factory, some of which were powered by natural gas. Obama proposed – you guessed it - tax incentives for alternative fuel vehicles, including natural gas. Natural gas vehicles aren’t that popular around the world, but have a certain following – Brazilian Fiat Siena taxicabs, LPG powered Volvos and the famous Panther platform Crown Vics and Town Cars that serve as taxi and livery cars in Toronto all exist, albeit in very small numbers.

Natural gas could potentially be a “black swan event” for the auto industry, a cheap, clean-burning fuel that could allow for both domestic energy independence and the continued hegemony of the internal combustion engine. Drivers wouldn’t have to worry about foreign oil, range anxiety or battery bricking.

The obvious problem is the lack of infrastructure. Natural gas filling stations are scant, to put it mildly. But there are rumblings (so far unsubstantiated – but keep watching TTAC for more info) that building filling stations, be it for hydrogen or other fuels, is easier and cheaper than trying to develop serious long-range, quick charging, sustainable and affordable battery technology. If this turns out to be true, then it suggests that electric cars will be forever relegated to “second car/commuter car” status.

A final note: Israel, home of Better Place and their battery swapping stations, is said to have enormous shale oil and gas deposits (so much for the joke about the Israelites wandering for 40 years and finding no oil). Aside from the obvious geopolitical implications, what kind of future would that leave for the Better Place program?

 

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Quote Of The Day: Chrysler’s Fuel Economy Crunch Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/quote-of-the-day-chryslers-fuel-economy-crunch-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/quote-of-the-day-chryslers-fuel-economy-crunch-edition/#comments Thu, 20 Oct 2011 20:05:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=415372 As the automaker that’s least-prepared for upcoming increases in federal fuel economy standards, it was more than a little surprising to find that Fiat’s five year plan for Chrysler did not involve any significant plans for hybrid drivetrain development. But more recently, CEO Sergio Marchionne has said a hybrid Chrysler 300 would be offered in […]

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As the automaker that’s least-prepared for upcoming increases in federal fuel economy standards, it was more than a little surprising to find that Fiat’s five year plan for Chrysler did not involve any significant plans for hybrid drivetrain development. But more recently, CEO Sergio Marchionne has said a hybrid Chrysler 300 would be offered in 2013, and the firm hooked up with the feds to work on a hydraulic hybrid drivetrain. And though new CAFE regulations offer generous credits for hybrid pickups, a policy choice that rescues Chrysler’s investment in “Two Mode” hybrid technology, more will have to be done. For, in the words of Marchionne [via Automotive News [sub]],

I have no other way of getting to 2025 numbers than by going to hybrids

But Chrysler won’t rely fully on hybrids in order to make the significant fuel economy improvements it needs. In fact, it will be relying as much on diesels and compressed natural gas (CNG) drivetrains as anything else.

AN [sub] reports

Marchionne said Chrysler’s hybrids would be in addition to a broad offering of diesel-powered vehicles in the United States.

He said Chrysler will begin offering a diesel-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee in 2013, and thereafter most Chrysler Group large vehicles will offer a diesel in the United States.

Which is an interesting revelation. First of all, it calls into question Bob Lutz’s analysis of the difficulties of bringing diesels in line with US emissions standards. Lutz argues that the benefits don’t outweigh the costs and compromises, but clearly Marchionne disagrees. And yet he clearly realizes that there are easier feats: Chrysler’s five year plan called for a stop-start, diesel Wrangler in 2010… and yet that still hasn’t materialized. Jeep CEO Michael Manley noted back in early 2010 that

We have no plans at the moment for diesel Jeeps in North America

Clearly that’s no longer the case… which means Chrysler’s product plans are relatively fluid. And if diesel were a cure-all, we’d be seeing them already. It seems that Chrysler’s approach to the new CAFE standards are based more in desperation than any clear strategy. That impression is compounded by Chrysler’s talk of CNG drivetrains. Though the technology holds great promise for energy independence, and Fiat is Europe’s leader in CNG technology, Marchionne’s comments on the prospect of US-market CNG offerings are fairly equivocal:

The likelihood of that happening is uncertain, but I’m still hopeful that at least a sizable portion of the U.S. market will develop CNG capability. And we are ready

In short, Chrysler has no clear plan to become competitive in fuel economy, which I happen to believe is as important for ongoing commercial success as it is for meeting US CAFE standards. Chrysler may beat back some of its over-reliance on full-sized RWD cars and large pickups and SUVS by bringing more Fiat-based vehicles to market, but the projected impact of those models seems to be on the decline. Subcompact B-segment cars planned for Dodge and Chrysler have been canceled, as has a compact Chrysler, and the firm will be stuck with its not-wildly-efficient midsizers until 2014. Moreover, Chrysler is going to have to rebuild a reputation for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles at time when its domestic competition will be solidifying their new reps for quality small cars on the strength of products that are already on the marketplace (think Fiesta and Focus, Cruze and Sonic… to say nothing of Hyundai’s emerging dominance in this area).

In short, Chrysler is living proof that the auto bailout will not produce the promised “new generation of green cars.” And its emerging plan gives no reason to expect that to change anytime soon.

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Speaking Of All Natural Gas … http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/speaking-of-all-natural-gas/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/speaking-of-all-natural-gas/#comments Sat, 02 Jul 2011 13:39:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=401415 This is the Maxximum G-Force. It holds all kinds of world records. And it runs on all-American natural gas! Something had to be natural in this video …

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This is the Maxximum G-Force. It holds all kinds of world records. And it runs on all-American natural gas! Something had to be natural in this video …

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Will Your Next Car Run On Fracking Gas? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/will-your-next-car-run-on-fracking-gas/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/will-your-next-car-run-on-fracking-gas/#comments Sat, 02 Jul 2011 09:31:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=401387 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 […]

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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.

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MIT and International Energy Agency Explore The Promise Of Natural Gas-Powered Transportation http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/mit-and-international-energy-agency-explore-the-promise-of-natural-gas-powered-transportation/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/mit-and-international-energy-agency-explore-the-promise-of-natural-gas-powered-transportation/#comments Fri, 10 Jun 2011 23:15:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=398193 A pair of studies, by MIT and the International Energy Agency [via GreenCarCongress] take a look at what is rapidly becoming a hot topic in the world of alt-energy transportation policy: the use of natural gas to power cars and trucks. If you’re intrigued by the car industry’s “forgotten” fuel source (and with Honda Civic […]

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A pair of studies, by MIT and the International Energy Agency [via GreenCarCongress] take a look at what is rapidly becoming a hot topic in the world of alt-energy transportation policy: the use of natural gas to power cars and trucks. If you’re intrigued by the car industry’s “forgotten” fuel source (and with Honda Civic GX models going on sale in 50 states and a possible $7,500 natural gas car tax credit going before congress this summer, you probably should be), hit the jump for some comprehensive information about the future of natural gas-powered transportation.

MIT’s study [PDF] is a 170-page monster which “seeks to explain the role of natural gas in a carbon-constrained economy,” and argues that the fuel’s use is likely to expand in almost all scenarios, due to low costs, abundant supplies, carbon advantages. The main shortcoming of natural gas, namely the cost of transportation and lack of fueling infrastructure, will likely be addressed by developments in natural gas liquification and will, in particular, spur increases in natural gas use in transportation applications (only about 3% of current supply goes to transportation right now).

The IEA report [PDF]is not much shorter, at 131 pages, and it carries the provocative sub-headline “Are We Entering The Golden Age Of Gas?” The IEA document is more globally-focused than the US-centric MIT report, but it comes to many of the same conclusions, namely that the best opportunities for natural gas-powered cars is in commercial fleet vehicles, freight, and public transportation. The study plots out several scenarios and projects trends in natural gas use, concluding that natural gas vehicles (NGV) could capture 10% of the global market by 2035, and that such a development would reduce oil use by 5.7m barrels per day compared to a 1.9% market share, but would offer a less dramatic improvement in carbon emissions.

Compared to the barriers faced by pure electric cars, for example, natural gas seems like a seriously underutilized energy source for cars. If carbon reduction is the top goal, it’s certainly less ideal, but for energy independence, and general reductions in oil consumption, gas has a lot to offer. Possibly most compelling to the auto industry, natural gas does not require brand-new technologies, but can be burnt using existing engines with relatively minor conversion costs. The MIT report encourages the US government to study different natural gas-derived liquid fuels (as each has its own quirks and foibles) as a precursor to any infrastructure investments needed to drive transportation-sector use of natural gas, while the IEA report sees the biggest gains in natural gas transportation in Latin America and Asia. It seems clear from the research that natural gas, along with micro-hybrids, hybrids, EVs, and possibly even fuel-cell vehicles, will be a key element of the “carbon constrained” fleets of the future.

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