Wednesday, April 23, 2008

CNG cars

With the cost of gas skyrocketing, you may have been wondering if there are affordable alternatives to the usual gasoline-powered cars. Off the top of my head (and excluding diesel-powered vehicles), there are three "alternative fuel" vehicles available:

1) electric (including hybrids, such as Civic and Prius)

2) ethanol / e85 (a.k.a. flex fuel vehicles or FFVs)

3) compressed natural gas (CNG)

The purpose of this post is a simple guide to CNG cars in CT.

Of course, the first thing you need to know is where CNG vehicles are sold. I know of only one place that sells them: Manchester Honda. (When I bought my Honda Civic Hybrid in 2006, Manchester was the exclusive distributor in CT.) And here's the details of the CNG-powered Civic GX NGV.

And you'll also see there the cost: $25,225.

If that seems unaffordable to you, remember you can get a $4,000 federal tax credit through 2010. And these CNG cars avoid the 6% CT sales tax through July 1, 2008... which saves you another $1,000 when compared to a regular Civic.

As for the cost of fuel though, that's anyone's guess (CNG is a fuel and all fuels fluctuate in price, though NG and petroleum tend to mirror each other over time, despite periodic fluctuations). Regardless, it would have the benefit of an immediate reduction in America's consumption of mideast oil (most NG consumed in the US is extracted in the US or Canada). Anyway...

Those are facts as I know them (please correct me if I'm wrong!), but not everything is a cost saving with the CNG Civic. As you may have already asked yourself... "where do I phill up?"

Great question!

You phill up at home. As you can see in this photo, you can get your own "fueling station" at home (assuming you have CNG at your house) and then you never have to stop at the gas station again. You just phill up at home.

Of course, there are three remaining concerns that come to mind:

1) cost - I recall they cost about $2,000 installed... but I couldn't confirm because I called after their offices closed at 5pm today.

2) availability - and this is a problem... according to their website, they're not yet available in CT... they're only available in select parts of California, Arizona, Colorado, Illiniois, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. Oh well... they're not availabe around here yet... but that may change... and for all I know, other similar products may be available. I'm not sure... I just happened to know about this particular product (and for the record... I have no financial interest in this company or Honda).

3) range - while CNG fueling stations exist in NYC and Boston, you're range is reduced. So this probably makes more sense for a two-car family.

Anyway... if you are looking for a new car and already have CNG at your house... you may want to consider making a few phone calls and finding out if you could make something like this happen. Just think... you'll never again find yourself on the way to work passing gas stations that already have lines... and you'll also be reducing America's consumption of middle east oil.

Tim White

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tim,
1. CNG internal combustion vehicles have been around for decades. I worked on them and have done hundreds of gasoline to dedicated CNG conversions for years. Here are some of the negatives: replacement parts and manufacturers are rapidly going out of business. Parts are also very expensive compared to gasoline engine parts. CNG is more expensive than gasoline because it is not regulated and you also get a lower MPG. CNG does have a slight loss of power compared to gasoline. In fact UPS has been converting CNG vehicles back to gasoline. You mentioned the other drawback, which is the amount of fueling stations in the area. Also CNG vehicles run at full power around 3600 psi, when the tank pressure drops you lose power and even with 300-400 psi left in the tank you may not be able to make it up hills. Also during the winter, the temperature has an effect on CNG pressure, it does not allow you to completely fill the tank, cutting down your driving distance. What do you do when you run out of CNG on the road? That's easy..call your local tow truck to haul your vehicle to the nearest CNG fueling station.

2. E-85 vehicles require a more expensive fuel. The fuel is mainly derived from corn here in the good ole USA. The problem is that the price of corn futures has sky rocketed because of the supply/demand factor. Not only that but other farm products have also followed along with the corn prices. Check out the price of rice, wheat or bananas, oranges..go figure! Also with the huge use of land to grow more corn we are slowly dedicating this land to corn only. Once you go corn you never go back.

3. Hybrid vehicles which I found out after buying one myself creates more pollution than gasoline vehicles. This was a shocker to me too. It seems that the emissions from the vehicle (carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrates of oxygen) are lower than a gasoline vehicle. BUT, the production of the 650 volt battery that drives the 35+ hp friction electric motors creates 30% more toxic air pollutants in the process. In fact I believe the EPA band the production of these batteries here in the USA. Most of the big hybrid vehicle companies purchase the batteries from Canada, where it is still legal.

I don't have an answer to this problem. IMHO electric is the way to go. We need a smaller, light weight battery that can be rechared by the suns energy, we still may need to plug it in sometimes, but someone will develope the better battery sooner or later. Maybe when XOM goes out of business, ha!

Sincerely,

Mike Rocci
Licensed ASE Master Mechanic

P.S. I'm a much better mechanic than I am at grammer, so excuse me if I made any errors.

tim white said...

Thanks Mike... and about your comment...

someone will develope the better battery sooner or later

Today's iPods probably have more power than the computers of the 1960s that filled entire rooms.

Today's cell phones are quite small compared to the Vietnam-era boxes.

So I agree. At some point, the technological improvements will occur and solar will be much more powerful and cost effective for people.

Remember though... such advancements apply to ethanol and cng and all the other sorts of energies that are currently being funded by VCs/angels and gov't.

Therein lies a massively high stakes race... who strikes it rich by achieving those advancements?

Anonymous said...

Ethanol uses more energy to manufacture than it produces.
The only clean fuel is hydrogen and in order to produce large quantities of it we need more nuclear power plants.
Making hydrogen by burning oil or coal is just plain ridiculous.
Charging batteries using conventional sources of power is the same.
Biodiesel is is just another way of fooling ourselves.
The most ludicrous thing we doing right now is burning our food supply to create energy. We have gone from being an exporter of grain to an importer. Food prices are going through he roof with no end in sight.
In 2003-2004 we imported 20,000,000 metric tons of wheat into this country
That is pathetic for the "breadbasket of the world"
We needed to be drilling in Alaska and increasing our refinery capacity years ago.
France has become the leader in conversion to nuclear power, we are decades behind.
Lou Murray

Anonymous said...

By Peter DeMarco
April 24, 2008
Tuesday was Earth Day, but this year I'm not thinking green; I'm thinking brown, as in Big Brown, United Parcel Service.
MORE STORIES LIKE THIS
Why UPS? Because I just found out a fairly crazy fact about UPS drivers: They make a conscious effort not to make left-hand turns.
Company leaders figured out that sitting in traffic, waiting to make a left, burns way too much fuel. So they zapped as many left turns as they could from 100,000 truck routes a day.
Instead, drivers are handed computer-generated delivery routes that have them going in efficiently calculated loops, calling for left turns only when necessary.
"You start on the right-hand side of the street and you stay on the right-hand side of the street almost all of the day," said Dan McMackin, a former UPS driver who is now a company spokesman. "The only left turn you make is to come home."
According to the company, this simple technique saves an eye-popping amount of gasoline. "In the last year alone," a UPS release stated, "this system has shaved nearly 30 million miles off UPS's delivery routes, saved 3 million gallons of gas, and reduced emissions by 32,000 metric tons of CO2 - the equivalent of removing 5,300 passenger cars off the road for an entire year."
I doubt any of us can make it through the day without left-hand turns. (Even UPS drivers can't avoid making them in a city as congested as Boston, says Jimmy, my local delivery guy.) But I like what UPS does because it proves you don't have to own a hybrid to save gasoline; you just need to tweak the way you drive. And you might be shocked at how much gas you can potentially save.
Still skeptical? Let me direct you to fueleconomy.gov, a terrific government website that breaks down in dollars and cents just how much fuel you waste when you drive over 60 miles per hour, have low air pressure in your tires, or fail to replace a clogged air filter.
How much gas could you be wasting on just these three items? Let's add it up.
Most engines don't run efficiently past 60 miles per hour. For every 5 miles per hour you drive over 60, you're probably wasting 20 cents' worth of gasoline per gallon, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy, which cosponsor fueleconomy.gov. (The 20 cents is based on a cost of $3.23 a gallon.)
The amount of waste is smaller for economy cars and higher on big SUVs. But on average, if you drive 70 on the highway, you're essentially wasting 40 cents of gas per gallon.
If your tire pressure is too low, you're burning an extra 10 cents of gas per gallon.
Replacing a clogged air filter can improve your car's gas mileage by as much as 10 percent, the EPA states. A dirty air filter, which keeps impurities out of your engine, translates to a waste of about 32 cents of gasoline per gallon, based on current prices.
All told, that's 82 cents of gasoline you're wasting per gallon. Worried about paying more than $4 a gallon for fuel this summer? Guess what: If you're wasting this much gas, you already are.
David Greene, fueleconomy.gov's senior researcher, said, however, that most drivers aren't wasting that much fuel. Most people do replace their air filters, he said. Most people spend only a half or third of their driving time on a highway, and even then, they're not always going faster than 60, he said.
Still, your driving attitude absolutely can affect your car's mileage. If you're serious about saving gas, then no more speeding, no more tailgating and slamming on the brakes, no more leaving your weighty golf clubs in the back seat all year long, no more warming up your car for 10 minutes in the winter, no more gunning your engine at a green light, no more skipping your regular tune-up, and no more - dare I say it - beating everyone else on the road so you get there first.
Indeed, perhaps the most important gas-saving tip, aside from keeping your car in good shape, is simply to stop driving so aggressively, Greene says.
"That's the thing you have the most control over, and has the biggest impact."
Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration, braking) can lower gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town. If you split your driving time between the two, you're wasting about 45 cents per gallon, all because you're in a rush.
Of course, it's a tall order to ask Boston drivers to drive less aggressively. But at least one group of drivers I found proves it can be done. Toyota's uber-efficient Prius hybrid gets great mileage not only because it uses electricity, but because Prius owners make a game out of saving gas.
Each car has what's called an "instantaneous fuel economy gauge" that shows your miles per gallon for each moment you're driving. If you floor it at a yellow light, your gauge will drop to 10 or 12 miles to the gallon because your engine's working too hard, says Toyota spokesman Bill Kwong. If you're coasting down a big hill, your gauge will soar to something like 90 miles to the gallon because you're letting gravity do the work.
"It's no different than the old days [the 1970s] when people used vacuum gauges to monitor their engine efficiency," Kwong said. To maintain a high trip miles per gallon, drivers learn to ease into stops, coast downhill, maintain steady speeds on highways, and avoid idling.
Kwong, who owns a Prius, said he's learned to increase his average trip miles per gallon by 5 or 6 miles by driving "conservatively." Were you to start driving like Kwong, the same gains would apply for your nonhybrid as well.
You can find a horde of fuel saving tips at fueleconomy.gov, on AAA's website, or at another automotive site, edmunds.com.
© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.
JUST SOME FUEL FOR THOUGHT!
Mike Rocci

Mario said...

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