Natural Gas powered vehicles gain popularity in U.S.

Having recently moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, I can’t help but notice all the bright green, “We’re powered by natural gas” public transportation buses that crisscross the city all day. It’s a phenomenon growing across the country as more and more heavy-duty and consumer vehicles are turning to natural gas fuel sources instead of diesel fuel and gasoline in an effort to reduce costs and emissions.

Natural Gas Fuel – A growing trend

Two recent news articles sparked my interest to look at what exactly is this natural gas fuel excitement about. The first was a few weeks ago when Waste Management, one of the largest natural gas burning heavy-duty truck owner and operators in the country announced its acquisition of the company’s 1000th natural gas burning truck– making up 1/3rd of the companies trucks that now run on natural gas.

Waste Management also has built a plant that turns landfill gas into liquefied natural gas (LNG) for use as fuel in its trucks – producing nearly 13,000 gallons per day.

Read the full article here.

The second article was that 150 natural-gas fuel stations are planned for America’s highways beginning this year – showing that the natural gas as fuel drive is reaching on-the-road trucks. Clean Energy Fuels Corp is working alongside Chesapeake Energy Corp, the nation’s second largest natural gas producer to create these stations along major trucking highways.

The highways include U.S. 10, U.S. 40, U.S. 5, U.S. 95, U.S. 90, U.S. 70, U.S. 20, U.S. 35 and U.S. 45 and they will be part of Pilot-Flying J fueling stations.

The article suggests that the trucking industry – hit hard by rising and fluctuating oil prices at the pump – and an industry that affects the price of goods and products shipped across the country – is highly interested in the jump to natural gas because of the significant price reduction.

Read the full article here on the new fueling stations.

How does Natural Gas as an alternative fuel work?

Interest in natural gas as an alternative fuel source continues to grow because of its clean-burning qualities and abundance across America. It can be used in vehicles in two forms: either as compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG). A CNG-powered vehicle gets roughly the same amount of energy as a gallon of gasoline at nearly half the cost.

In April 2011’s Alternative Fuel Price Report, released by the U.S. DOE, the average fuel price for gasoline was $3.69 while average fuel prices for CNG was only $2.06 per gallon – a significant difference if you own a natural-gas powered vehicle.

Honda is currently the only company that offers consumers a natural gas powered vehicle in its Honda Civic in the U.S. The price for a 2011 Honda Civic Natural Gas car starts at around $25,000 and gets 32 mpg. Other big names in the auto industry such as General Motors and Chrysler have plans to unroll a natural gas powered vehicle in the near future.

Natural gas as a fuel alternative is already popular in other countries around the world and automakers Volkswagen, Toyota and Fiat all have bifuel cars available – vehicles that allow you to switch between natural gas and gasoline as fuel – just not in America.

LNG powered vehicles take natural gas and cool it down, creating the liquefied form and are typically only used in heavy-duty vehicles.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s website, only four states don’t have any natural gas stations available: South Dakota, Iowa, Kentucky and West Virginia.

As the energy debate continues across the country to reduce our carbon-use, natural gas vehicles may take a larger step forward, as seen so far. Do you see yourself switching to a natural gas powered vehicle in the future?

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