Fiat's Gassy Secret

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
fiat s gassy secret

Ok, it’s not really a secret. But I sure wasn’t aware that the Italian automaker is “the biggest player in the market for natural gas engines,” selling 68k natural gas-powered rides last year and aiming for 120k unit sales this year. Thanks for the heads-up, NY Times! In yet more evidence of Fiat’s politically-savvy strategy, Italy’s scrappage scheme currently doubles the rebate for paisans who junk their clunker for a natural gas hoopty. Naturally though, one government incentive isn’t enough: “Fiat is collaborating with fuel companies and the Italian government to provide more than 1,000 stations where motorists can fill their tanks with natural gas.” Though most NG Fiats are “dual-fuel,” US infrastructure will have to be significantly upgraded (with help from taxpayers) to cash in on NG’s green promise stateside. Nonetheless Fiat’s natural gas technology is raising hopes for Chrysler’s future, if a deal is done, if infrastructure is upgraded, and if US consumers spring for the emerging fuel. But a word of warning: eco-tech enticement sent several billion GM bucks down the Fiat rabbit hole in search of competitive diesel technology not that long ago. And we all know how that turned out.

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4 of 21 comments
  • Edward Niedermeyer Edward Niedermeyer on Apr 29, 2009

    Hey, if I can have one of these and two of whatever evo's photo editor is having, natural gas is fine with me. Stein: Google searches have worked best for a while.

  • Martin Schwoerer Martin Schwoerer on Apr 30, 2009

    CNG cars are getting faster and better, too (at least in Europe):

  • Mirko Reinhardt Mirko Reinhardt on Apr 30, 2009

    Germany has a good enough network of CNG stations. Mostly local CNG suppliers working together with the gas stations.

  • Macca Macca on May 01, 2009
    NG production in the US , Canada and Mexico has been declining. hence the LNG imports from the middle east. too much of it being used to heat and run power stations. sure, it is cleaner than oil, and could be a transition fuel…. but not the final solution. The natural gas market is even more volatile than the oil market. Adding millions of cars and trucks to the demand, and you’ll be rich whne you have a well. and no, drilling more won’t give us that much more and will be more expensive assuming we first drilled where it was easy to get (the same is true for oil, coal etc.) Part of the reason production has dropped in the last 6 months is that nearly 50% of the rigs in operation last year have been shut down. A well's production declines over time; halting drilling results in lesser production volumes. Yes, the natural gas market is volatile. And yes, if there were more demand, you'd see an increase in price - but it would likely settle to a reasonable level to allow for economic drilling. There has to be some incentive to drill (like a minimum ROI) or why would anyone drill? I'm not sure you've heard about some of the latest natural gas discoveries. There are several new plays throughout the country with massive reserves - but yes, the wells require deeper (and often directional) drilling, which makes them more expensive. At current prices, such wells just aren't economic. But that doesn't mean extensive reserves don't exist, it just takes a certain price environment to make it happen. I live and breathe this stuff - and I don't work for a major.