Natural Gas Cars

         

Cars That Run on Natural Gas

2013 Natural Gas Cars - Why Consider Buying A Natural Gas Car?

At this point in time, 2013 natural gas cars are not very common in the United States.  In fact, if you asked the average American to name a car that runs on natural gas, most would give you a “deer in the headlight” look.  But that’s all about to change. A huge paradigm shift is on the horizon. Everything is beginning to line up for that shift to take place. The mass production of natural gas cars is right around the corner.

The progression towards natural gas vehicles started with natural gas buses. You may not realize it, but if you live in a city with a population of 100,000 people or more, there is a very good chance your city has already switched their transit system from diesel buses to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). These buses are called “clean air” buses because they release far less greenhouse emission into the atmosphere than traditional diesel buses. In fact, natural gas engines are the cleanest burning engines available today.

Many trucking companies have followed suit by converting to natural gas trucks. With the price of natural gas at about 40% to 50% of gasoline and/or diesel, from an economic standpoint, it makes a lot of sense, and saves a lot of cents.

One reason natural gas is so inexpensive is there is an abundant supply of it right below our feet. With modern day technology, a process called fracking (hydraulic fracturing) allows gas companies to release natural gas from shale rock, deep below the earth’s surface. This process is also very inexpensive. Not only does the United States have one of the largest natural gas reserves in the world, but we have more natural gas available right here, than we will ever be able to use. If you go to www.ngvc.org/naturalgas/index.html you can see an excellent chart of the shale plays throughout the US.

 

In June of 2011, General Motors (GM) signed an agreement with Westport Innovations Inc. It appears that GM has some kind of exclusive deal, which could put GM in the driver’s seat for natural gas car technology. You may say, so what? Let me tell you what. Westport is the largest manufacturer of natural gas engines in the world. They will be opening a new technical center in Michigan as a result of the agreement.  Westport already has a number of patents on natural gas engines.  I believe this is a clear signal that GM is committed to moving forward with production of natural gas vehicles, including cars. I’m sure they will begin with SUVs and small trucks, but will soon be rolling natural gas cars off of their production lines.

In Europe, consumers can already choose from more than a dozen models of natural gas cars, which have already been in production for some time.  But in the United States, the only family car on the market at this point is the Honda Civic GX. The 2013 Honda Civic GX sells for about $26,155, that's for the basic car.  This is about $10,000 more than a similar gas powered Honda Civics.  According to the manufacturer, this natural gas car gets about 27 MPG in the city and about 38 MPG on the highway.  It has been in production now for 12 years.  Until recently, only four states sold this automobile. Now it is available in 38 states through about 200 dealers.

There are also natural gas conversion kits available, to make a gas burning car a natural gas powered vehicle. But it is pretty expensive to convert a gasoline engine to natural gas.  The U.S. Department of Energy says the cost to convert to natural gas is between $2,000 and $4,000. There are also bi-fuel vehicles (those that use both gasoline and compressed natural gas), but unfortunately no bi-fuel cars at this point. 

To date, there have been two main obstacles, or disadvantages of natural gas vehicles, standing in the way. The first has been the cost of the engine and fuel system, which is several thousand dollars more than a conventional gasoline system.  As these cars become more commonplace and production steps up, the price will automatically come down. The second roadblock to natural gas cars has been the lack of fueling stations across the country. This in conjunction with the fact that natural gas cars can’t travel as far on a tank of gas, has been a huge hindrance. There are currently about 1,000 fueling stations in the Continental United States. Only about half of those stations are open to the public. However, the solution to that roadblock is quickly coming together. First of all, there are tax incentives in place to encourage companies to install these stations.  Secondly, companies such as Clean Energy Fuels Corp, a California company, has secured about $300 million from a number of sources to combat this situation. Chesapeake Energy Corp has invested another $150 million in Clean Energy. Clean Energy is planning to open 150 liquefied natural gas (LNG) stations at Pilot Flying J locations throughout the country. They have named their project “America’s Natural Gas Highway.”

Just recently, US manufacturers have released new CNG pickups and bi-fuel pickups for sale that run on both natural gas and gasoline.

With all of the obstacles disolving, natural gas 2013 cars are truly right around the corner. Maybe it’s time to start thinking about purchasing a natural gas car.