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Fiat May Sell Methane Powered Cars To U.S. Market

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On: Thu, Dec 9, 2010 at 10:56AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Fiat May Sell Methane Powered Cars To U.S. Market

The topic of fully electric automobiles is becoming more and more popular today, as various manufacturing companies have started marketing new electric vehicle products. While hybrids and EVs are becoming more prevalent in the marketplace, the use of natural gas to propel vehicles is relatively unheard of. This is something Fiat is determined to change.

Fiat is an Italian firm that produces cars all around the world. Many Fiat vehicles produced outside of Italy are made in Brazil, where Fiat is the bestselling brand in the country. The corporation currently operates in approximately 60 countries and employs more than 223,000 workers, approximately 50% of Fiat employees work in places other than Italy. Fiat also produces agricultural and construction equipment, motorcycles, planes, and commercial vehicles.

According to Fiat’s CEO Sergio Marchionne, natural gas engines are a more viable alternative to electric vehicles, primarily because they can be produced and sold at lower prices. The current lithium-ion battery technology needed for electric cars can be rather expensive. Auto manufacturers producing electric vehicles are concerned about the costs involved. Presently, many of these companies are relying on government subsidies and tax incentives to ensure that affordable prices can be offered on new electric vehicles being launched.

Constantinos Vafidis is in charge of hybrid development at Fiat, working out of of Fiat's research facility located in Turin, Italy. Vafidis claims, “Natural gas is very suitable for the U.S., especially for public services and goods transportation, where vehicles are refueled from a central base.”

Currently, Fiat leads the way in European natural-gas engine production. They account for approximately 80% of methane-propelled cars and 50% of the commercial vehicle market. The United States is now the world’s leading producer of natural gas, so the potential for this resource in automotive technology makes perfect sense.

Fiat has sold around 130,000 methane-powered cars in Europe just in the last year. In Italy there are upwards of 800 natural gas fueling stations. Perhaps in the early stages of operations in America the undertaking would start off regionally. The important thing is that natural gas-operated vehicles have the potential to be an economical substitute for the fossil fuel-burning machines that seem to be falling out of favor.

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