Natural Gas Vehicles: Pros and Cons

Feb 28

“I am the Lorax, and I’ll yell and I’ll shout for the fine things on earth that are on their way out!” Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

With all the large monster trucks and fun outdoor driving activities, we do not always question if what we are doing is damaging the earth that we love so much. However, as we continue to move forward, many of us are beginning to think about the future of our environment.

What might seem to be a new concept is actually one that has been around since the 1930s: natural gas in motor vehicles. Natural gas vehicles (or NGVs) have been more common throughout the world than in the United States of America. Roughly, 120,000 of these vehicles are in this beautiful country, versus the 15.2 million throughout the rest of the world.

You might be wondering: if so many other countries are using these vehicles more commonly, why not USA? Well, like every big decision, we like to think things over. Here are some of the key points that have caused hesitation with NGVs (rather than listing the pros first, I figured that we would start off with the compromises, that way you can end on a good note. Plus, it never hurts to mix it up a little bit, right?):

Cons

Oh, the places you’ll go! are actually not too far away. CNG (compressed natural gas) stations are a limited supply in the US of A. There are only about 1,000 fueling stations and only a little over half of them are available to the open public. The majority of these natural gas stations are in large metropolitan hubs, since a vast amount of natural gas vehicles are fleet vehicles. In addition, NGVs can only travel about 130-220 miles (I have heard varying mileage on the same car—the Honda Civic Natural Gas—and since I haven’t actually test driven the car myself, I can’t provide you with an accurate statement, unfortunately), which is about 100 miles less (give or take) than a lot of today’s gasoline-powered vehicles.

It takes money to make money. Honda’s Natural Gas Vehicle costs about $5,000 more than the regular gasoline-powered version. Also, if you choose to have a home fueling station at your house, that can cost another $10,000 or so before incentives. So if you are planning on having one of these cars, you must be sure you are ready to make an investment!

More time pumpin’ iron. This isn’t necessarily because you receive less mileage, but because filling up your gas tank can be a process. If you have a home system for which you can refill your tank, it can take around ten hours. This is because with home refilling systems the gas is under very low pressure, so the home device has to act as both the gas pump and compressor. When filling up at home, make sure you do so whilst asleep or when you know that you won’t be leaving your home anytime soon. Also, these home fueling devices can cost about $2,000-$5,000 plus the installation fee. Ouch! If there is a CNG station near you, it is suggested you fill up there, since the gas is already pressurized and will only take a matter of minutes.

Fashion gurus are out of luck! For those of you who are fashionistas or love being able to choose different styles of car, you will be out of luck with this. Right now, you are able to purchase the Honda Civic Natural Gas, and that is about it. Although, keep your head held high, for this year (2013), Chrysler, General Motors, Ram and Ford have announced new 2013 pick-up truck models that will be bi-fuel. This means that these trucks will be able to run on either natural gas or standard gasoline.

Nonrenewable. Not all fossil fuels will be around forever, and unfortunately, natural gas will only last us about 90 years, according to the predictions of the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Fortunately, there is technology to make biomethane (chemically identical to natural gas) from renewable natural sources, such as agricultural waste.

Pros

After reading all the negatives, let’s brighten up the ideas of NGVs and tell you all the great things they can do for you!

Natural gas is cheaper! With the rising of gas prices and the pumps hurting your poor wallet, this can be a major plus. The cost of CNG can be as low as about half the cost of regular gasoline. So yes, the cost of the home fuelling device and car can be more expensive at first, but in the long run, you could save tons!

Safety first! Accidents happen. Often times when they do, gasoline leaks from the car, which is dangerous and highly flammable. Since CNG is lighter than air (it is already in a gaseous state), instead of puddling underneath the vehicle the gas will evaporate. Yes, when this gas is first escaping the vehicle, it is volatile, but once it has evaporated the worry of a fire occurring evaporates with it.

Keep America self-reliable. We love our neighbors and other countries, but sometimes it is best to do things for ourselves as well, especially if we have the tools to do so! To some, you might wonder why this is so important. If you have listened to the news lately, you will soon grasp how necessary this truly is. About 80%-90% of the natural gas we utilize comes directly from our homeland. This would reduce our reliance on out of country gas.

Life in the fast lane. In quite a few states, if you are driving an NGV, you have access to the HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lane at anytime.

Experience Driving. If you are afraid that you are going to lose all the power you had with your previous car, fear not! The driving experience is very similar in natural gas vehicles as it is to gasoline-powered ones. The main difference you will notice is that the acceleration is generally a bit slower (but we all know that you shouldn’t be speeding anyway).

Speak for the trees! Like the Lorax spoke for the trees, we must speak up as well. CNG burns much cleaner than regular gasoline does. CNG can reduce nitrogen-oxide releases by 35%-60% and bring down carbon-monoxide emissions by 90%-97%, thus helping with air pollution. In addition, compressed natural gas also has the potential to reduce non-methane hydrocarbon emissions by about 50%-75%.

Oil Change. Because you have cleaner burning fuel, you won’t need to change the oil in an NVG car than you do with a standard gasoline car.

Overall, natural gas vehicles are a wonderful addition to the transportation world. Depending on your situation, though, they may not necessarily be the right fit for you. If NGVs aren’t right for your lifestyle, there are still many other ways to stay green and yell and shout for the fine things on earth that are on their way out (such as a clean atmosphere). Keep posted on our eco-friendly blog posts to find out what you can do in order to help save our environment! Spread the word, spread the love, spread the fresh air.

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