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 …
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. (Read More…)
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.
For years now the Chinese automakers have been the bête noir of the global car industry, inspiring equal parts fear and contempt in boardrooms and editorial meetings from Detroit to Stuttgart. In an industry built on scale, China’s huge population and rapid growth can not be ignored as one scans the horizon for dark horse competitors. And yet no Chinese automaker has yet been able to get even a firm toehold in the market China recently passed as the world’s largest: the United States.
Certainly many have tried, as the last decade is littered with companies who have tried to import Chinese vehicles, only to go out of business or radically rethink their strategy (think Zap for the former and Miles/CODA for the latter). Others, like BYD (or India’s Mahindra), have teased America endlessly with big promises of low costs and high efficiency, only to delay launch dates endlessly. In short, a huge gulf has emerged between overblown fears of developing world (particularly Chinese) auto imports and the ability of Chinese automakers to actually deliver anything. No wonder then, that we found what appears to be the first legitimate attempt at importing Chinese cars to the US quite by accident…
There’s been a recent groundswell of interest in natural gas as a fuel for cars in recent months, marked by Honda’s decision to sell a natural gas-powered 2012 Civic in 50 states, Edmunds CEO Jeremy Anwyl’s public paean to the fuel, and the EPA’s relaxation of natural gas conversion regulations. Honda alt-fuel manager Eric Rosenberg enthuses to WardsAuto
We’re the Saudi Arabia of natural gas… Demand [for the Civic GX] has tripled, and that’s actual retail demand. Traditionally, fleet has been about 50% to 55% of demand, but now it’s dropped; now 80% of demand is retail.
And since Chrysler’s new guardian, Fiat, has plenty of (well-subsidized) natural gas experience in Italy, it’s no surprise that Chrysler’s looking to get in on the action (Chrysler’s own experience with the stuff was brief). In fact, just last year Fiat-Chrysler was pushing the idea of natural gas cars as a stopgap until its first EV (the 500) arrives in 2012. Now, presumably because the desired government help wasn’t forthcoming, Bloomberg reports that Chrysler is only promising gassy goodness “by 2017.” Now there’s an interesting way to jump on a bandwagon.
The EU has ambitious CO2 targets: Less than 130g/km by 2012, less than 95g/km by 2020. Carmakers are shaking their heads: No way! Even the most electro-agnostic firms tinker with EVs (even if they are from Japan) to bring their average down. “No problem,” says a new study. The targets are a cinch to reach. What’s more, no heavy and expensive batteries to lug around. use the existing engine! No range anxiety. What is that miracle technology? (Read More…)
Today, natural gas is a rational alternative to gasoline that can provide a near-term environmental solution on the road to vehicle electrification. It is the most effective solution, in terms of costs and timing, to lessen this country’s reliance on oil
Chrysler/Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne tells the Detroit News that despite not having an electric vehicles in the works until 2012 (can you believe ENVI was just vapor), Chrysler can sell environmentally-friendly vehicles sooner than that. After all, Fiat sells a grip of natural gas-powered vehicles in Europe (130,000 last year), offering the alt-energy drivetrain on nearly every model. Of course, there’s a hitch. Or three.
Diesel drivetrains have long been a crucial component to the European market’s forbidden-fruit appeal for American enthusiasts, ranking right up with station wagons and manual transmissions on the list of under-offered features in the American market. But there are signs now that Europe’s longtime infatuation with oil-burners might be drawing to a close (and not just for biodiesel). The Telegraph reports that Europe-wide diesel market share has fallen from 52 percent to 46 percent in the last 12 months, with the UK’s share dropping from about 43 percent to about 41 percent. Much of this trend is being driven by growth in the low-cost car segment, where the higher cost of diesels make them less competitive. Fears of higher repair costs for more complicated clean-diesel drivetrains and a relative undersupply of diesel fuel aren’t helping either. And just as diesel is faltering in its most important consumer market, the EU is eying a tax increase that Reuters UK says “could boost demand for gasoline at the expense of diesel.”
Ten years ago I test drove the then new to North America Ford Focus ZTS. “Give it some gas,” the salesman prodded as we entered a freeway onramp. I showed her the whip. “Can you feel that,” he yelled enthusiastically over the buzz of the straining engine. “Well, it’s certainly making a lot of noise,” I thought, “but we don’t seem to be getting anywhere very fast.” A decade later it’s deja vu all over again, except my copilot has the good sense not to pretend that this 2009 Focus is any kind of street demon. And rather than fouling the atmosphere with noxious gasoline exhaust, birds are singing and bees are sweetly humming as I explore the green virtues of driving with Compressed Natural Gas.