CNG Cars Can Go the Distance and Be Affordable, Says Lobbying Group

Natural Gas Bi fuels

Just the Facts

  • Natural gas backers are launching a drive to persuade automakers to build compressed-natural-gas fueled cars and trucks.
  • Six custom-built CNG vehicles are on display now in Washington, D.C., and builders say production versions would not cost much more than standard gasoline vehicles.
  • Fuel can cost less than $1 a gallon-equivalent when produced at home.

 

WESTCHESTER, California — A natural gas lobbying group is launching a national effort today to persuade automakers and lawmakers to get off the gasoline and turn to natural gas as a significant fuel for new passenger vehicles in the U.S.

Natural gas advocates say that increased use of the suddenly plentiful fuel — made so by the opening of huge domestic reserves that can be exploited through an extraction process called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” — can help the country cut its dependence on imported oil while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and saving consumers millions of dollars in fuel costs.

But all that doesn’t matter if no one can afford the cars — of if they don’t offer the levels of performance, convenience and utility American buyers expect.

The big selling point of the Alliance program is that properly designed CNG-gasoline “bi-fuel” vehicles can be “no-compromise” cars and trucks that don’t sacrifice performance or storage space and don’t have exorbitant price tags, said Eric Noble, a consultant for the American Natural Gas Alliance-backed project.

Noble’s company, CarLab Inc., built four bi-fuel cars and SUVs that borrowed their operating philosophy from the new generation of plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles: use the alternative fuel for most daily driving chores but keep plenty of gasoline on board for extended trips and to avoid the danger of being stranded if the alternative fuel can’t be found.

To drive home those points the Alliance recently gave Edmunds.com and several other news organizations an advance look at six purpose-built bi-fuel cars, vans and trucks at a Southern California Gas Co. pumping facility on a hill overlooking a vast underground natural gas storage field just north of Los Angeles International Airport.

The same vehicles were rolled out in Washington, D.C., this week in a bid to wow legislators and people attending the annual ACT Expo.

“The cars in this program are the first step on the path to [mass] production,” said Barry Carr, an ANGA member and business development director for Landirenzo USA, the North American arm of a major Italian producer of CNG bi-fuel systems for automakers and aftermarket conversion companies.

Landirenzo, which built two cars for the ANGA demonstration, also makes systems for Fiat, General Motors, Volkswagen, Renault, Nissan and others in Europe, he said, and is doing aftermarket systems in the U.S. for Ford and GM trucks.

CNG could account for up to 80 percent of the average car owner’s annual mileage in a properly designed bi-fuel vehicle, Carr said. Natural gas fuel can cost well under a dollar a gallon when produced on home-based compression and pumping systems being developed by companies including Whirlpool.

Natural gas is a widely used passenger vehicle fuel in parts of Europe and South America and there are more than 15 million natural gas vehicles worldwide, said Kathryn Clay, executive director of the Drive Natural Gas Initiative and an ANGA member.

“But less than 1 percent of them are in the U.S., despite our big natural gas production,” she said.

Noble, whose Orange, California-based company built four of the six demonstration vehicles in the program, provided detailed cost sheets that showed the market price of every screw, fitting and supply line used in the conversions.

CNG costs vary from region to region based on the cost of the electricity used to compress the gas and the regional price of the gas itself. At retail pumps around the country the price is typically at least 50 cents a gallon less than gasoline and it can be half the price of gasoline in many areas.

A huge drawback of CNG passenger vehicles so far has been the high cost of the systems, which require expensive high-pressure fuel tanks; the loss of cargo or passenger space that’s given over to those large, cylindrical fuel tanks; and the lack of a nationwide CNG refueling system.

The system being pitched by ANGA tries to address all of those issues.

The average premium over MSRP for the all-gasoline versions of the four bi-fuel vehicles shown by CarLab was just under $2,900 for cars built in small commercial quantities of 20,000 units a year, and slightly less than under $1,900 for vehicles built in large volumes of 200,000 or more per year.

“The average payback period is 2.2 years for someone driving 12,000 miles a year with gasoline at $3.53 a gallon and CNG at $1.17” a gasoline-gallon equivalent, Noble said.

“That compares to 3.4 years for a Toyota Prius (at the same fuel costs), 7.4 years for a Nissan Leafelectric car and 34.4 years for a Chevrolet Volt” plug-in hybrid, he said. “This isn’t a technology with the promise that the price will come down in 10 years” he said of the natural gas conversions. “It’s cheap now.”

The costs Noble cited contrast sharply with the nearly $7,500 price premium Honda charges for the 2012 Civic Natural Gas — the only factory built CNG passenger car sold in the U.S. today.

The key difference is that the Honda is a dedicated CNG vehicle that can’t use any other fuel — and thus has a large and very expensive high-pressure fuel tank — while the alliance is promoting bi-fuel vehicles that don’t need substantial CNG tanks.

The four CarLab demonstrators — a Ford Mustang GT, a Hyundai Sonata sedan, a GMC Acadia large crossover SUV and a BMW X-3 small crossover — all are designed to travel 50 miles on CNG before switching over to gasoline.

The two vehicles prepared by Landirenzo — a Honda CR-V small crossover SUV and a Chrysler 300sedan — emphasized CNG use and thus had larger tanks for the pressurized fuel and correspondingly higher conversion costs that added $4,800 to the MSRP of each.

The computerized engine control unit in each of the demonstration vehicles decides which fuel to use for the best performance, but prioritizes CNG until that fuel is depleted and gasoline is all that’s left to burn.

The CarLab vehicles kept their stock gas tanks and added small CNG tanks, typically holding the energy equivalent of 2 to 4 gallons of gasoline, while keeping all of their original cargo space. The Landirenzo vehicles had 9-gallon-equivalent CNG tanks plus their stock gas tanks, adding almost 180 miles of CNG travel to their range but losing a substantial amount of cargo space — 75 percent in the Chrysler’s case.

All six vehicles maintained their stock horsepower and fuel economy levels with either fuel.

The idea in both cases, said Noble, is to “give people the cost savings of using CNG for most of their driving but enable the vehicles to seamlessly switch to gasoline when the CNG tank is empty. That way people can just keep on driving with no inconvenience. Long trips aren’t a problem. And there’s no problem if you forget to fill up with CNG overnight.”

Edmunds says: Sounds like a couple of interesting approaches. Is anyone in the car business listening?

This article was first published by Edmunds.com.

State Offers $10M for NGVs

Cars in Traffic Reuters

Pennsylvania environmental officials are offering $10 million worth of incentives to companies, government agencies and nonprofits for the purchase of cars or light trucks that run on natural gas or to convert lighter-weight vehicles that now use gasoline.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection launched the program Wednesday in a bid to generate demand for natural gas vehicles. A drilling boom in Pennsylvania and other states in recent years has produced enormous quantities of cheap gas.
The DEP grant program is open to nonprofit organizations, companies, local governments and local transportation agencies for natural gas vehicles weighing less than 14,000 pounds. The program also covers conversion or purchase of electric, propane or other alternative fuel vehicles of any size.
Grants will be awarded in the fall. Funding comes from a tax on utilities.
The program will help put new or converted police patrol cars, passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks on the road, DEP Acting Secretary Chris Abruzzo said.
Earlier this month, the state awarded more than $6.7 million in funding to 18 companies and local governments that switched to natural gas for buses, garbage trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles. That money came from an impact fee on drillers.
This article was first published by PennLive.com.

Heavy Duty Vehicles lead the growth – average annual growth rate of 14.6 percent

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Natural gas, as compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG), is the fastest-growing fuel in the transportation sector in the USA, reports the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The agency projects an average annual growth rate of 11.9 percent from 2011 to 2040.

Heavy Duty vehicles (HDVs) — which include tractor trailers, vocational vehicles, buses, and heavy-duty pickups and vans with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,001 pounds or more — lead the growth in natural gas demand throughout the projection period. Natural gas fuel consumption by HDVs increases from almost zero in 2011 to more than 1 quadrillion Btu in 2040, at an average annual growth rate of 14.6 percent.

Although HDVs fueled by natural gas have significant incremental costs in comparison with their diesel-powered counterparts, the increase in natural gas consumption for HDVs is spurred by low prices of natural gas compared with diesel fuel, as well as purchases of natural gas vehicles for relatively high-VMT (vehicle miles traveled) applications, such as tractor trailers.

The total number of miles traveled annually by HDVs grows by 82 percent in the Reference case, from 240 billion miles in 2011 to 438 billion miles in 2040, for an average annual increase of 2.1 percent. HDVs, those with a GVWR greater than 26,000 pounds (primarily tractor trailers), account for about three-fourths of truck VMT and 91 percent of natural gas consumption by all HDVs in 2040. The rise in VMT is supported by rising economic output over the projection period and an increase in the number of trucks on the road, from 9.0 million in 2011 to 13.7 million in 2040.

Apache Celebrates Houston Opening of Public Access CNG Station

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Apache Corporation (NYSE, Nasdaq: APA) announced today the grand opening of its latest compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station, located in Houston’s Galleria shopping district at 2109 McCue Rd, adjacent to Apache’s corporate headquarters.

Steve Farris, Apache’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, addressed about 150 attendees at the grand opening ceremony, held on March 22, 2013, and a number of Houston-based dealers/installers and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) exhibited a selection of CNG-powered vehicles.
Since 2009 Apache Corporation has transformed 42 percent of its U.S. fleet vehicles to CNG power, which represents more than 450 cars and trucks, with a long-term goal of converting 80 percent of its fleet to this clean-burning, abundant, and domestically generated fuel. Including its Galleria area facilities, Apache has constructed 20 CNG fueling stations in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Louisiana. Six of these are public access facilities and the private CNG stations are available to other area fleets by agreement with the company.

Beverly Hills Opens CNG Fueling Station and Replaces Four Refuse Trucks With CNG Models

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The City of Beverly Hills, Calif., recently opened its new compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station. The new station will fuel the City’s growing fleet of CNG vehicles, which now includes four new refuse trucks.

According to the City, the $1.2 million project will save the City $250,000 each year in estimated fuel costs and will pay back the City’s investment in five to six years (based on comparing the price of CNG to that of diesel fuel).

“This project makes sense for the City and for the region,” said Beverly Hills’ Mayor William W. Brien, MD. “With the price of diesel climbing, and no end in sight, it was necessary that we do something to control these costs. In addition, we are proud to do our part to keep the air in the Los Angeles basin clean and livable for Beverly Hills residents and the surrounding communities.”

For the four new refuse trucks, the City purchased CNG models due to a mandate from the California Air Quality Resources Board (CARB). The City received a $550,000 grant from the Southern California Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) to offset the cost of the CNG vehicles and related infrastructure. Out of that amount, Beverly Hills applied $300,000 to help fund the construction of the fueling station and put the rest toward the CNG refuse trucks themselves.

In addition to the new refuse trucks, the City has already purchased a number of CNG models or has converted them to CNG. They include six refuse trucks, four street sweepers, a Honda Civic sedan, and a vactor truck (for cleaning sewers).

Regarding the new CNG fueling station, it features fast- and slow-fill dispensers. It has a total of nine posts with dual-fill hoses for slow-fill dispensing and a single fast-fill dispenser, which can dispense up to 20 gallons within 10 minutes at maximum pressure. It has a production capacity of 653 gasoline gallon equivalents within eight hours and comes with two storage spheres (the City can add one more sphere if greater capacity is needed). The City contracted with Mansfield Equipment Corp. to set up the station.

Beyond fueling up current and future City-owned CNG vehicles, the new CNG station will also allow Beverly Hills to enter into mutual fueling agreements with other public agencies in the region.​

This article was first published by Government Fleet.

Developing Tidal Power: Normandy Port Authority Announces Expansion Plans

The English Channel separating the UK and France is home to some of the strongest tidal currents in the world, and the Ports of Normandy Authority (PNA) and local government authorities, as well as French energy and engineering giants AlstomEDF Energies Nouvelles, and GDF Suez, want to tap into them.

PNA announced plans to invest €60 million (US$78 million) to expand and outfit the ports of Cherbourg and Caen-Ouistreham so as to facilitate development of marine tidal power generation systems and renewable marine energy industry facilities, according to a PNA press release.

Photo credit: Voith Hydro

 

 

Tapping into the Power of Tides

France ranks second in Europe, following the UK, in terms of assessed marine energy potential. Raz Blanchard and the Passage du Fromveur are the two areas of French marine territories with the greatest potential. Taken together they represent 80% of France’s total prospective tidal power generation capacity, with the Raz Blanchard in the English Channel alone accounting for half. Installing marine turbines in Raz Blanchard, along with grid interconnections, would also provide clean and renewable electricity to homes and businesses on the UK Channel Island of Alderney.

Photo credit: PNA

Recognizing the potential tidal and marine energy resources of Normandy and Brittany, PNA and local authorities of Basse-Normandie also see the potential to realize a healthy, sustainable future for the region’s residents and economy based on clean renewable marine energy; tidal power in particular.

“There is no doubt that the French government and the Alderney authorities face many challenges in the implementation of their plan to harness ocean currents in order to produce energy,” PNA states in its press release.

“PNA, however, is confident that the port of Cherbourg can establish itself as a major hub in MRE (marine renewable energy), also in the wake of its recent successes in securing contracts regarding wind-power development. The diversification and growth of the local (and regional) economy in this field have started, and expansion plans currently pursued by PNA will underpin these developments in a positive manner well into 2013-2016.”

Realizing this vision requires expanding the port of Cherbourg by 35 hectares (~86.5 acres) according to PNA, which is ready to invest €60 million to extend the port on reclaimed land into Cherbourg’s outer harbor. Project work is slated to occur between 2014 and 2016.

Looking to inform and gain the support of local residents in Basse-Normandie, PNA held public consultations between October 19 and November 19. The large majority of participants expressed support for PNA’s plan according to the port authority, particularly with regard to the employment and economic development that is envisaged.

PNA is incorporating public feedback into its harbor expansion and MRE plans with the intention of releasing an updated and improved version to the public this spring.

Tidal & Marine Energy: The Basis for Sustainable Socioeconomic Development?

The potential energy contained in Normandy and Brittany’s tidal currents and offshore winds have attracted the attention of France’s largest energy and engineering concerns.

GDF Suez last June announced that its subsidiary, Eole Generation, would conduct two tidal power project feasibility studies: one in lower Normandy’s Raz Blanchard and a second in the Passage du Fromveur off Brittany’s Finisterre coast.

Eole’s feasibility study at Raz Blanchard entails installing a pilot 3 to 12-megawatt (MW) tidal power plant consisting of 3 to 6 Voith Hydro HyTide tidal power turbines. If that proves successful, management will look to install as many as 100 marine turbines on site.

Eole has partnered with tidal power engineering specialist Sabella in order to carry out its feasibility study in the Passage du Fromveur. The agreement provides Eole with access to Sabella’s research on the site, as well as on its prototype D10 marine turbine.

GDF Suez management has made renewable energy a focal point of the company’s business strategy. GDF group companies own and operate nearly 10,000 MW of installed capacity in France. Nearly 50% of that comes from renewable energy sources, according to management.

There’s also enormous tidal and marine renewable energy potential across the Channel. In a recently released report the UK Crown Estate estimates that the island nation’s total tidal power capacity totals some 153GW.

“While the science of wave and tidal resource assessment is still emerging, and future work will clarify the resources that are practically available, it is clear that wave and tidal energy could contribute substantially to the UK’s electricity needs,” Rob Hastings, director of the Crown Estate’s energy and infrastructure portfolio commented.

SOURCE: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/1yvSz)

Foldable Electric Cars Will Begin Use In German Carsharing Network This Year

A foldable electric car, produced by the company Hiroko, will begin test use this year as part of a carsharing network in Berlin.

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Hiroko has come to an agreement with the operator of the German railway network, Deutche Bahn, to begin testing their new EVs within a car-sharing network associated with their rail network. As a rep from Deutche Bahn has said, Hiroko is an “ideal partner to complement its extensive railway network.” If everything goes well, the program will expand to a much larger scale.

“Hiroko consists of a Basque consortium of auto suppliers and engineers from MIT. The company, whose name loosely means ‘from the city’ in Basque, has about an $87 million budget and has built about 20 vehicles for testing purposes, the New York Times reported in August. The Fold is the first of three versions that will be put out by Hiroko. There are also plans for the Alai (convertible) and Laga (truck).”

“The car is about eight feet long, about a foot shorter than Daimler’s Smart Fortwo, in regular form, and can be folded to a length of about five feet. The car’s four wheels can also rotate at a 60-degree angle.”
SOURCE: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/1xROm)