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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 …