States To Carmakers: "CNG! CNG! CNG! CNG!"

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

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.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • NMGOM NMGOM on Aug 10, 2012

    Hydrogen will be the ultimate energy carrier eventually. BMW was right, but far too early with their "Hydrogen 7" test cars. We don't have large infrastructure for that rapid adoption right now; and there are some storage / venting / containment issues. Yes, I know that CH4 is already 80% hydrogen by atomic count, so why not use CNG while it's here? Well, LNG has many of the same issues as LH2; and CNG has many of the same issues as CH2. But either form of CH4 is still half as polluting (read: CO2-forming) as gasoline, but burning H2, either as liquid or gas, produces NO CO2 AT ALL (Just water vapor). So, if we want to really take a bold step forward, let's just set up wind turbines on coast lines; do some hydrolysis of sea-water for H2 (and O2 as a gift); and save the CH4 for making polymers,---something H2 by itself cannot do. Yes, we have to start small with modest infrastructure, but isn't that same "small start" problem that happened with gasoline engines in the 1890's and the early part of the 20th Century? I'd recommend coastlines along northern California, Oregon, and Washington, --- they seem nicely windy. And for us enthusiasts, if H2 is used in ICE-mode, nicely demonstrated by BMW (as opposed to fuel cell), then we could still easily have: 1) Cars that go "vroom" in the night (and in the day, too!); 2) No temperature-dependent, range-limited, coal-buring EV's; 3) Manual transmissions (repeat: MANUAL TRANSMISSIONS); 4) Blazing sports performance (H2 has about 115 octane rating, if my memory serves); 5) Zero-emissions, energy-neutral transportation; 6) No bellyaching from tree-huggers or snail-savers (^_^)... How good does it get? So, let's get creative and courageous, folks.... ---------

    • See 6 previous
    • NMGOM NMGOM on Aug 10, 2012

      @carve Thanks, carve.... As you note, the well-to-wheel efficiency of any H2 use currently is poor, simply because virtually all H2 in this country comes from reduction of petroleum by-products! Of course that's inefficient. You actually spend energy THREE times: once to recover; once to reduce; once to burn. The only comfortable** way H2 generation will make long-term sense is with wind-powered hydrolysis of sea-water. Then you can run either fuel-cells (inefficiently) if you want, or ICE's, which are preferred for real driving. EV's make no sense at all from an enthusiast's objective viewpoint, unless there is a huge breakthrough (10-fold or more) in battery-strorage capacity per volume. And a huge reduction in temperature-dependence. Think northern Minnesota in January: -30 deg F. But even then, where is the authentic "vroom" going to come from? And what about the objections raised in point 2) above? (3:01 AM entry),--- namely, electric-power sourcing from coal, which averages about 75% in this country. People who buy EV's are simply transferring the pollution problem from their neighborhoods to the neighborhoods surrounding the coal-fired power plants 75% of the time, again, on the average. And where are you going to charge EV's during massive prolonged power failures, such as in India this past month? (Yes, it can AND has happened in the USA, remember?) Here is a more comprehensive list of EV issues, including the coal-buring item above: 1) Heating occupants, seats, and windshields in Winter (> large battery drain); 2) Cooling occupants in Summer (> VERY large battery drain); 3) Huge battery-pack replacement cost after 8-10 years, limiting vehicle lifetime and forcing lease-acquistion instead of purchase; 4) Large-scale recycling difficulties of battery returns/replacements; 5) Dangerous, limited, and "strangle hold" foreign supply of rare-earth elements for batteries and motors; 6) Limited range for travel, currently between 50-150 miles ("range anxiety"); 7) Without gearing, large (unexpected and dangerous) torque delivery off-the-line at zero RPM (just great for teenage girls on cellphones!); 8) The power grid is not designed to handle the load of large-scale electric transportation; 9) Charging stations at destinations and households are about $2K each, and are not in place generally; 10) "Refueling" times are 24 to 4 hours (depending on use of 110 volts, 220 volts, or 440 volts); 11) Pollution problems are transferred to coal-fired power plants (comprising 75% of power-genertion in the US), worse CO2 polluters than clean diesel; 12) Stray electric-current safety issues in accidents, impeding recovery of occupants by emergency personnel; 13) Large added weight and poor weight distribution deter good vehicle driving performance, braking, and accident-avoidance.; 14) Added electronic / mechanical complexity (e.g., hybridization, KERS*, etc) means poorer long-term reliability and endurance; 15) Disproportionately high purchase prices and depreciation rates for the level of utility otherwise obtainable with ICE** vehicles; As you can see, a lot if problems would have to be solved before EV's can get close to ICE's practicality. And some people, like Ed Lapham, writing for" AutoNews", have reported that ICE's will be with us until at least 2050, even using just petroleum fuels. ** Nuclear power is another option, but nobody is excited about that right now. ------------

  • W.Minter W.Minter on Aug 10, 2012

    Here's a nice overview of (mostly) available CNG powered cars and trucks in Europe. Quite amazing. Cars: Trucks: Sergio, bring your Fiat Doblo Cargo Natural Power Turbo (starts at - converted - 18500 USD plus tax, full CNG conversion included) stateside, 5 seater to avoid truck import taxes, rebadge it as Dodge Tradesman. Kaching!

  • Nomandamarinero Nomandamarinero on Aug 10, 2012

    I don't understand how when you are talking about CNG Argentina is never mentioned, it's the country where there are biggest number of cars converted to run on the stuff, going back to the 1980s.

  • Truckducken Truckducken on Aug 10, 2012

    Step 1: Convert the US trucking fleet to CNG. Trucks have room for the tanks and burn a huge percentage of US liquid fuel. Payback is far better in a 5 mpg vehicle driven hundreds of miles per day than a 38 mpg commuter Civic, or any other private passenger vehicle. Step 2: When Step 1 causes diesel prices to crater, my fellow internet buddies and I can finally get our turbodiesel wagons (with a stick, of course)!