It turns out that there aren’t many technological hurdles to overcome. Converting existing vehicles to run on natural gas is actually rather simple. Unfortunately, if you tried it yourself, you’d almost certainly break the Clean Air Act’s prohibitions against changing gasoline systems, a violation that could cost you up to $5000 in fines for each day you drive the altered vehicle. So, if you want to go green with your wheels right now, you’ll need to hire a licensed compressed-natural-gas (CNG) installer. I went to NatGasCar in Cleveland to learn more about aftermarket CNG systems. It’s a start-up company that installs a natural gas fuel system alongside gasoline cars. They showed me their newest innovation, a dual-fuel Dodge Caravan that would be used as an airport taxi. It runs on gasoline at first, then changes to natural gas as the engine warms up.
The compressed-natural-gas fuel tank located behind the rear seats in the cargo area is NatGasCar’s most important and expensive component. The company employs a Type 4 tank, which is the most modern type available. It has a plastic composite core coated in carbon fiber that helps it to be lighter, and it’s rated for severe impact and puncture resistance.
The fuel regulator sits between the tank and the engine, reducing the 3600 psi fuel tank pressure to an useable 125 psi fed to the engine. The fuel regulator is heated to keep it from freezing due to gas expansion. The lower-pressure gas is delivered to the engine, a Chrysler Pentastar V-6 that can run on a variety of fuels. It’s crucial to have a flex-fuel engine since it has toughened valves and valve seats, which are required for CNG operation. A parallel fuel rail carries the natural gas, and a second set of injectors is plugged into a smart adaptor that allows both gasoline and CNG injectors to be used on the same injection port. For the Pentastar engine, natural gas has an optimal air-fuel ratio of roughly 16.8:1, whilst gasoline has a happy ratio of 14.6:1. As a result, the new injectors’ programming must be slightly modified. The wire harness in the NatGasCar intercepts signals from the engine-control module and turns on either the gasoline or CNG injectors, depending on which fuel is selected. The signals for the gasoline injectors are changed so that the natural gas injectors get the right amount of fuel. This method, only minor fine tuning is required, and the car’s engine-control unit takes care of the majority of the work.
So, with a new gasoline tank and a little fiddling with the fuel injectors, I should be good to go, right? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Natural gas is distributed to millions of residences around the country. However, what appears to be the ideal distribution network is actually the natural gas cars’ biggest headache. Natural gas is given at roughly 0.5 psi at home, but it must be pressurized to 3600 psi in cars. You’ll need a compressor if you wish to use CNG in your car. Because compressed gas storage in residences is prohibited by a National Fire Protection Association safety requirement, a stand-alone multistage compressor pump in the garage must be hooked up to the vehicle’s fuel tank and immediately fill it. This results in up to 22-hour fuelling times (even longer than equivalent home charging times for electric vehicles). Honda’s Civic Natural Gas comes with a Phill ($4500) home compressor system, which is the only one of its kind on the market. NatGasCar is working on a compressor system that can fill up a car in eight hours; the current goal price is $3500. Some states have subsidized the construction of high-speed filling equipment at petrol stations, which can take as little as 4 to 5 minutes to fill, similar to gasoline. However, because these systems are expensive to establish, just 941 high-pressure CNG filling stations are distributed across the country, largely in New York, California, Utah, and Texas.
It’s true that fueling CNG vehicles is inconvenient, but is it worth it? Natural gas costs between 79 cents and $1.50 per gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) across the country. Because natural gas has a higher octane rating, CNG vehicles have the same or better relative fuel economy per Btu as petroleum-based vehicles. Our test drives revealed no degradation in performance and a range of roughly 250 miles. However, there are some astronomical early setup fees. The cost of a fully installed conversion ranges from $6500 for a simple system to $12,000 for a top-of-the-line installation with a high-capacity, composite fuel tank. Add $3500 to the total if you want a home fuelling compressor. Even at the low end, the conversion will cost you enough money to buy over 1800 gallons of gasoline at today’s pricing.
The destiny of CNG vehicles will eventually be determined by these pricing. High gasoline prices have historically sparked a rush of investment in less expensive, cleaner fuels, followed by a drop in demand when costs decline. For the time being, CNG has a high entry cost, making it only practical for taxi services and other fleet operators, but economies of scale may reduce costs for the average car buyer in the future. And if the price of gasoline remains above $3 per gallon, the change may occur sooner rather than later.
Why aren’t cars powered by natural gas?
Then there’s the matter of money. Natural gas is not necessarily less expensive than gasoline, and an automobile that runs on it is not necessarily less expensive. A natural gas car’s fuel efficiency isn’t particularly impressive. The CNG Honda Civic and the Chevrolet Impala Bi-Fuel, two CNG (compressed natural gas) cars that were once offered in the United States, are no longer available. The first had a fuel efficiency of 31 miles per gallon equivalent, while the second had a fuel efficiency of 19 MPGe. It’s not particularly impressive.
Third, after Honda and Chevrolet discontinued production of the CNG Civic and Impala Bi-Fuel, there are currently no CNG cars on the market in the United States. You can’t buy a new CNG car in the country except through fleet sales. Only a gas system can be retrofitted onto a gasoline vehicle. Natural gas, on the other hand, is a feasible alternative to gasoline in trucks and buses, if only for the sake of reducing emissions.
Is CNG compatible with any vehicle?
- Any car that runs on gasoline can be converted to run on CNG with the addition of a CNG kit.
- These kits are universal and can be mounded according to the vehicle, making them less safe.
- The most significant disadvantage of installing a CNG kit in a car is that the consumer forfeits the vehicle’s warranty.
Advantages of using CNG
- In terms of combustion, the engine has a more efficient mechanism, resulting in cleaner exhaust emissions. When compared to cars that use other fuels, emissions are reduced by up to 80%.
- It’s important to double-check that the individual installing the CNG kit is utilizing genuine CNG kits.
- It’s worth noting that the car’s entire equipment set is brand new.
Installation of CNG
It’s a common task to install an aftermarket CNG kit. It should be done by or under the supervision of professionals. The components of a successful CNG kit retrofit are.
- The work does not cease after the installation. When it comes to maintaining a CNG car, there are some specific rules to follow.
- CNG vehicles require a different grade of engine oil than their gasoline-powered counterparts.
- Because there is no fluid inside the vehicle engine, it is more prone to wear, hence regular engine inspections are required to extend the engine’s life.
- Running a car on CNG will significantly reduce the vehicle’s performance. As a result, patience is required while driving.
- The vehicle’s air conditioner depletes the engine’s power, putting greater strain on it. The cooling system of the car may or may not be affected by CNG.
Why don’t all cars operate on compressed natural gas?
When the Honda Civic, the first natural gas-powered automobile, was introduced in the United States, it was a huge deal.
It was projected that a huge number of people would move from conventional cars to CNG (compressed natural gas) cars because natural gas is less expensive than gasoline and CNG cars emit significantly less pollution than regular cars. So, why aren’t there more CNG-powered vehicles on the road? There are several causes for this.
This is the single most important reason why the CNG car revolution in the country did not take off as many people thought. The United States is rich in shale gas deposits, which can now be accessed and extracted with great success thanks to fracking. Even though America has plenty of natural gas, the shale oil boom cut down gasoline and diesel prices, so consumers didn’t feel compelled to switch to CNG vehicles.
Today, the United States is the world’s greatest producer of natural gas, and the present government is on track to attain complete energy independence. When gasoline and diesel are so widely available and affordable, there is simply no reason for people to switch to alternative fuel vehicles.
And with Trump in office, who is going all-in on oil shale fracturing, oil will only get cheaper and more plentiful. Trump and his incredible administration will allow fracking on federal lands, which has already occurred, signaling a return to common sense in America, as well as jobs, development, and a stronger middle class. And liberals, as we all know, are unconcerned about any of this.
In the entire country, there are fewer than 2,000 CNG fuelling stations. On the other side, a petrol station can be found on almost every corner. This is another major reason why many people are afraid to purchase CNG vehicles. What’s the sense of buying a car if you can’t find a place to fill up at least not within 30 miles?
It’s actually resulted in a fascinating puzzle. Automobile manufacturers are hesitant to produce CNG-powered vehicles due to a dearth of recharging facilities, knowing that consumers are unlikely to buy them. Companies are hesitant to invest in CNG filling stations since there aren’t enough customers to get a reasonable return on their investment.
The existing fleet of CNG filling stations mostly serves municipal buses and trucks, as both have regular and predictable travel patterns, and the stations are positioned along those routes.
CNG-powered vehicles are slightly more expensive than gasoline-powered automobiles, which is another reason why there aren’t as many buyers. In most circumstances, a brand new hybrid hatchback will cost the same as a used SUV in outstanding condition. As a result, people choose to buy ordinary automobiles, especially now that fuel prices are lower than they have been in a long time thanks to oil shale, which is driving environmentalists insane because they despise seeing Americans free and independent.
So, what’s the answer? If we are ever to see more CNG automobiles on the road, the incentive must come from the federal level, which will not happen because it is not a priority (natural gas can be used to export and support the power grid, both of which are critical – after all, oil isn’t used to make electricity, right?).
Subsidies to manufacturers, tax credits and cash rebates to customers, and the development of CNG filling station infrastructure are some proposals that could work, but they won’t since it’s not a priority America has much greater fish to fry, and some may even argue that this is a small fish to fry?
However, delivering natural gas to Europe and Asia on a far wider scale would be ideal. Qatar and Russia, two of the world’s largest natural gas producers, are not America’s allies.
A natural gas vehicle gets how many miles per gallon?
- In an accident, lighter-than-air natural gas evaporates, making it a safer alternative to flammable liquid fuel.
- While equivalent models of natural-gas and gasoline-powered cars get the same miles per gallon, you’ll spend far less money on petrol. The cost of natural gas is around half that of gasoline. Because of the cleaner-burning fuel, you’ll need to replace the oil less regularly, according to Okhtay Darian, an energy engineer with Associated Renewable Inc., a New York-based energy consulting firm.
“A typical gasoline-powered automobile gets 32 miles per gallon, but a CNG-powered car gets 43 miles per gallon,” Darian explains.
- According to the US Energy Information Administration, eighty percent to ninety percent of the natural gas we use comes from domestic sources.
- Drive in the fast lane: NGVs can utilize a high-occupancy vehicle, or HOV, lane at any time in several states.
What is the average lifespan of a CNG tank?
CNG fuel tanks have a 15 to 20-year usable life, depending on their construction and how the original manufacturer certified them. Because there is no method to securely “requalify” tanks for extended usage, they must be replaced once they approach their expiration date. “DO NOT USE AFTER (EXPIRATION DATE),” says a label on every CNG tank. It may say, for example, “DO NOT USE AFTER 01/2027.” The expiration date for the CNG tank can also be located on a label near the fueling connector or under the hood. At regular servicing intervals, CNG vehicle owners should develop a habit of noting the expiration date. They should also be aware that there is no national system in place to alert owners when their tanks approach their expiration date; it is the responsibility of the vehicle owner or fleet manager to get the tank replaced when it reaches the end of its useful life. See the Compressed Natural Gas Fuel Tank Defueling, Decommissioning, and Disposal video for additional information on CNG tank end-of-life difficulties.
Is it safe to drive a CNG vehicle?
Is it true that CNG vehicles are safer? A automobile powered by a gas cylinder does not inspire trust. CNG cars, with company-installed CNG kits, are, nonetheless, considered to be far safer. These pass through a series of rigorous protocols and are hence trustworthy.
Are CNG vehicles accessible in the United States?
Vehicles are in short supply. CNG is becoming more popular as a fuel in the United States. However, this expansion is primarily limited to buses and medium- and heavy-duty trucks. There is currently no mainstream CNG-powered vehicle on the market.
Is it true that CNG vehicles are less expensive?
Yes, CNG fuel is less expensive than gasoline, and this is one of the primary benefits of owning a CNG car. Not only is CNG fuel less expensive than gasoline, but a CNG vehicle also has a superior fuel economy than a petrol vehicle. As a result, it’s a win-win situation for CNG vehicle owners.