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Cost Of Natural Gas Fueling Stations Coming Down

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On: Mon, Jul 30, 2012 at 4:18PM | By: Chris Weiss

Cost Of Natural Gas Fueling Stations Coming Down

Natural gas cars like the Honda Civic Natural Gas often get overshadowed by electric and hybrid vehicles, largely because the lack of a natural gas fueling infrastructure makes them a low-volume niche. While we also lack a proper electric charging infrastructure, homeowners can plug their EVs right into their home sockets, or pay a reasonable amount for upgraded 240-volt hardware. Natural gas vehicle owners aren't so lucky, but according to a new report, they may be in a few years.

Natural gas vehicle fuel economy numbers don't jump off the page like those of hybrids and electrics (the 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas is EPA-rated at 27/38 mpg). However, natural gas is significantly cheaper than petroleum gasoline. In an April 2012 report on fuel prices, the EPA listed the cost of compressed natural gas at $2.08 per gallon with regular gasoline listed at $3.89. Even with modest fuel economy, there are savings to be had.

Compressed natural gas also releases less greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline; and it is largely domestically produced, unlike export-dependent gasoline.

Despite all those benefits and despite winning designations like "Green Car of the Year," the Honda Civic NG and other cars like it haven't gained much of a foothold in the market. Part of that is due to supply - there just aren't that many of them around, and many consumers may not even know they exist. Part of it is also for lack of a proper fueling infrastructure, however. The EPA lists only 500 compressed national gas stations in the United States, a number that makes the 4,000 listed electric stations look rather large. A car that you can only fuel in a few locations around your state isn't necessarily that practical.

Minnesota-based power management company Eaton plans to change all that with an affordable natural gas home-fueling system. The system will tap into a home's existing natural gas supply, allowing homeowners to fuel up at home. At $500 to $1,000, it would be a practical expense, unlike the $5,000 to $10,000 that Eaton estimates systems cost today.

Eaton is developing the hardware with the University of Minnesota and hopes to have a prototype by 2015. Eaton calls $500 its "target production price," so it's not clear exactly how much it would retail for. The company does mention that the system would retail for a tenth of what current systems go for, so that would mean $500 to $1,000, based on its numbers.

"Innovative projects like these have the potential to make natural gas vehicles more affordable and convenient for every American family and revolutionize the way we commute,” said Dane Boysen, Director of the Department of Energy’s Methane Opportunities for Vehicular Energy (MOVE) program via Eaton's press release. "My hope is that these advanced technologies will enable us to use our abundant domestic supply of natural gas for transportation, diversifying our nation’s fuel and refueling portfolio for the future."

Assuming that it can be installed safely and at an affordable cost, Eaton's system can bring the benefits of compressed natural gas to many more people. Given the lower cost of natural gas, t would probably only take a few years for the investment to pay off. Commuters wouldn't have to worry about the lack of natural gas stations - except on longer trips.

Let's hope they make good on developing the system and keeping the price down to the $500 level.



DipStick | 8:47AM (Tue, Jul 31, 2012)

Why is CNG considered a green alternative when the processes that take place to harvest the gas cause more environmental damage than my car will do in several lifetimes? the development of fracking has wiped any illusions of the fuel being green!

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