More and more consumers are looking for an alternative to gasoline and diesel. Whether to help our country wean itself from foreign oil, improve local air quality, combat climate change, or simply save on fuel costs, making the switch to clean, abundant, and inexpensive natural gas is the right choice.
There are now a number of options for consumers when it comes to choosing a natural gas vehicle (NGV). Major automakers have added NGVs to their production lines, and there are a number of conversion options for most light and medium duty vehicles.
There are also many companies that specialize in converting new or in-use vehicles to run on CNG. These “small volume manufacturers” (SVM) work with qualified installers in locations around the country. Here are a couple important things to keep in mind when considering converting your vehicle.Original equipment manufacturers (OEM) General Motors and Chrysler have expanded their NGV offerings in the past two years, and Ford now offers five engine family platforms and has partnered with half-dozen preferred qualified vehicle modifiers (QVM). These bi-fuel cars, trucks, and vans can run either natural gas or a traditional liquid fuel. Although bi-fuel vehicles primarily run on CNG, an on-board computer system can seamlessly switch fuels for optimal power, fuel efficiency, and maximum range. Several other leading worldwide OEMs—e.g., Mercedes, BMW, and Volkswagon—already sell a number of NGV models in other parts of the world and have recently rolled out prototypes that could be offered in the U.S.
Both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) require proof that conversion systems meet emissions and on-board vehicle diagnostics interface requirements. To meet these requirements, look only to certified manufacturers when choosing a conversion system. For a complete list of certified fuel systems, visit our Available Vehicles and Engines page.
Conversion kits must be installed by trained professionals. If not done correctly, installing high-pressure tanks and their components can potentially damage a vehicle and lead to serious injury. Make sure installers are qualified, experienced, and willing to provide a warranty for their work.
Natural gas vehicles (NGVs) cost more than gasoline or diesel vehicles, whether factory made or converted after market. This is largely due to the higher expense of high pressure fuel tanks, which are necessary to store CNG onboard the vehicle. However, the cost to fill the tank with natural gas is about $2.00 less per gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE). The substantial savings on fuel costs, which depend on the fuel efficiency of the vehicle and the number of miles driven, can repay the initial investment in a fraction of the vehicle’s life.
Domestically produced natural gas is abundant and secure. This means it is not subject to supply disruptions and price spikes due to natural disasters or to the political instability of foreign countries. This was proven to be of critical importance in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. When gasoline and diesel powered vehicles were unable to refuel, NGVs were able to continue operation and remain an important part of the response and recovery efforts.
There are two options for fueling your NGV. There is a growing number of fueling stations open to the public in both urban areas and along high-traffic trade routes. If there isn’t a public fueling station in your area, home refueling units that tap into your home’s natural gas supply are also available.
Public Refueling Stations
A growing number of fleets—including ATT, Verizon, Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola, UPS, and Federal Express—are switching to natural gas, and that is helping to raise the number of natural gas fueling stations available to consumers. There are now 1,640 CNG and 123 LNG natural gas stations nationwide, a little more than half of which are publicly accessible. Some locations are owned by businesses, municipalities, or school districts where public access isn’t feasible.
First time users should get a lesson on how to use the pump, since refueling with compressed natural gas is slightly different than refueling with liquid fuel—the connector uses a tight, closed connection that is secured prior to fueling.
Visit our Stations page to find nearby stations. There are also a number of station locators available for mobile devices to find stations on the go.
Natural gas is the cleanest burning alternative transportation fuel commercially available today. As a transportation fuel, natural gas can reduce greenho use gas emissions by 20 to 30 percent when compared with diesel and gasoline, according to studies by CARB and other organizations. The exhaust emissions of natural gas vehicles, when compared to those of gasoline and diesel vehicles, offer these reductions of common urban pollutants:
- Carbon monoxide (CO) by 70 to 90 percent
- Non-methane organic gas (NMOG) by 50 to 75 percent
- Nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 75 to 95 percent
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) by 20 to 30 percent
Many consumers enjoy the convenience of refueling at home and not having to go out of their way to refuel at a station. If your home is heated with natural gas, you can buy a home refueling system designed to fill your vehicle overnight. These appliances compress and fill your vehicle’s tanks with gas from the same line that feeds your house. One home refueling kit is Phill by BRC FuelMaker. With growing interest in natural gas as a transportation fuel, more manufacturers are expected to enter the market with home refueling options.
There are a number of state incentives to help offset the higher upfront cost of purchasing a natural gas vehicle. Click here to find specific information about your state.
Click here for a complete discussion of emissions reductions from natural gas vehicles.
Last updated: December 31, 2015