Could Natural Gas powered cars and trucks be the next big thing? Some state lawmakers and local businesses think so.
Representative Stan Saylor (R) 94th District held a press conference Tuesday to promote natural gas as a vehicle fuel. “We have been talking for 40 years about getting off of the foreign dependence of oil. Nobody, no politician, has done anything about it,” said Saylor. “For the first time we really truly have the opportunity to get off the dependence of foreign oil, and do something about it. And use an American resource that we have readily available to us.”
At the press conference organizers unveiled a fueling station that we could see in the near future.
Shipley Energy plans to convert some of the businesses fleet to natural gas within the next year. “We’ll have a fueling facility to be constructed in the early part of 2014 to fuel those trucks and others in York. It’ll be open to the public, and we’re out talking right now to other businesses and fleets to see where other opportunities are to convert,” said Matt Sommer with Shipley Energy. “It seems like a tremendous opportunity with all of this gas that is available in the state of Pennsylvania. The savings are pretty tremendous particularly when you look at high mileage vehicles you can save a lot of money versus diesel or gasoline.”
“You see a price sign and you see gasoline at say $3.50 a gallon and right underneath it CNG for $1.99 a gallon. Once people are driving around and fueling their vehicle and seeing that day in and day out, we think there will be more of a ground swell and interest in conversions,” said Sommer.
Natural gas vehicles:
[Alternative Fuels Data Center]
Natural gas powers about 112,000 vehicles in the United States and roughly 14.8 million vehicles worldwide. Natural gas vehicles (NGVs), which can run on compressed natural gas (CNG), are good choices for high-mileage, centrally fueled fleets that operate within a limited area. For vehicles needing to travel long distances, liquified natural gas (LNG) is a good choice. The advantages of natural gas as a transportation fuel include its domestic availability, widespread distribution infrastructure, low-cost, and clean-burning qualities.
CNG and LNG are considered alternative fuels under the Energy Policy Act of 1992. The horsepower, acceleration, and cruise speed of NGVs are comparable with those of equivalent conventional vehicles. And, compared with conventional diesel and gasoline vehicles, NGVs can produce some emissions benefits.
There are many heavy-duty natural gas vehicles—as well as few light-duty NGVs—available from original equipment manufacturers. Qualified system retrofitters can also economically, safely, and reliably convert many vehicles for natural gas operation.
There are three types of NGVs:
- Dedicated: These vehicles are designed to run only on natural gas.
- Bi-fuel: These vehicles have two separate fueling systems that enable them to run on either natural gas or gasoline.
- Dual-fuel: These vehicles are traditionally limited to heavy-duty applications, have fuel systems that run on natural gas, and use diesel fuel for ignition assistance.
Light-duty vehicles typically operate in dedicated or bi-fuel modes, and heavy-duty vehicles operate in dedicated or dual-fuel modes. On the vehicle, natural gas is stored in tanks as CNG. LNG, a more expensive option, is used in some heavy-duty vehicles. The form of natural gas chosen depends on the range a driver needs. The energy density of LNG is greater than for CNG so more fuel can be stored onboard. This makes LNG well-suited for Class 7 and 8 trucks that need a greater range.
In general, dedicated NGVs demonstrate better performance and have lower emissions than bi-fuel vehicles. Because dedicated NGVs only have one fuel tank, they aren’t as heavy as bi-fuel NGVs and offer more cargo capacity. The driving range of NGVs generally is less than that of comparable conventional vehicles because of the lower energy density of natural gas. Extra storage tanks can increase range, but the additional weight may displace payload capacity.
How natural gas vehicles work:
Light-duty natural gas vehicles work much like gasoline-powered vehicles with spark-ignited engines. The schematic at the right shows the basic CNG fuel system components.
A CNG fuel system transfers high-pressure natural gas from the storage tank to the engine while reducing the pressure of the gas to the operating pressure of the engine’s fuel-management system. The natural gas is injected into the engine intake air the same way gasoline is injected into a gasoline-fueled engine. The engine functions the same way as a gasoline engine: The fuel-air mixture is compressed and ignited by a spark plug and the expanding gases produce rotational forces that propel the vehicle.
Some heavy-duty vehicles use spark-ignited natural gas systems, but other systems exist as well. High-pressure direct injection engines burn natural gas in a compression-ignition (diesel) cycle.
For more information on how natural gas vehicles work, and a natural gas calculator click here.