GM Signs Natural Gas Development Deal, Light Duty Prototype Possible In 18 Months

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
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Smell that? It’s the gathering scent of a new industry trend towards natural gas. Honda’s expanded its pioneering Civic GX to 50 states, Sergio Marchionne wants to replicate his Italian CNG success at Chrysler ( eventually), and now GM is jumping on the bandwagon while it’s still relatively uncrowded. The Winnepeg Free Press reports that GM has signed a development deal with Vancouver, B.C.-based Westport Innovations which could see a prototype light-duty natural gas-powered engine completed “within 18 months” if preliminary study proves promising. A Westport spokesman boasts

If both parties agree to move ahead with commercialization this would be one of the first pure OEM [natural gas-powered] products

You know, except the Civic GX which has been prowling American streets since 1998. Still, with Chrysler targeting CNG commercialization no earlier than 2017, GM could have a strong head-start on a fuel technology that promises to be a viable and promising gasoline alternative, especially if the NatGas Bill [ PDF] passes, expanding $7,500 plug-in tax credits to natural gas vehicles. And GM’s got a strong partner in Westport, which has heavy-duty commercial deals with Cummins and Caterpillar. With Nissan all-in on EVs and years ahead of the competition in terms of global EV production capacity, look for other competitors to hedge their alt-energy bets… and natural gas is rapidly becoming the most popular alternative.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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4 of 27 comments
  • Luke42 Luke42 on Jun 29, 2011

    Natural gas is a "natural" replacement for expensive gasoline/diesel. Oil prices have to go up long-term (because nature isn't making any new oil in human timescales), and natural gas is the next best thing when it comes to cost/convenience. Natural gas only kicks the can down the road, though. Sustainability-minded folks may want to look elsewhere, though, and I've got some good suggestions -- but that's offtopic.

  • Geozinger Geozinger on Jun 29, 2011

    There have been all kinds of cars that run on natural gas, but they seem to be mostly for fleet usage, particularly in utility companies. Up until several years ago, the local natural gas utility had a slew of Chevy Cavaliers that were converted. Honda is only unique in the idea of marketing these cars to consumers directly.

  • Frozenman Frozenman on Jun 29, 2011

    I have owned and run LPG vehicles in the past and from my experience the higher fuel consumption rates, poor re-sale value, being banned from underground parking garages, and my home insurance not covering any damages to the home if parked any where near it, make it a non starter. Electric cars staring on fire in an enclosed garage is bad enough, massive LPG explosions in residential garages is something else entirely.

  • Darth Lefty Darth Lefty on Jun 29, 2011

    Ed, it's probably before your time as a reporter, but you should look into the Arizona alt-fuel tax credit fiasco from the 1990's. It's pretty entertaining in hindsight. Added on edit - alt fuels was in 2000. One does tend to get one's Arizona scandals mixed up, between Keating, Meacham, AzScam, Symington...