The CNG Alternative

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Whatever happened to CNG – Compressed Natural Gas – as an alternative fuel?

Back in the mid ’90s, I test-drove a few factory-built CNG-powered “demonstrator” vehicles, including a new Ford Crown Victoria. Unlike most hybrids, the CNG Vic was a proper car: Full-size, six-passenger, V-8 and rear-wheel-drive. It required a few modifications to operate on CNG, mostly to the fuel system, but nothing particularly elaborate or expensive because the powertrain (engine and transmission, etc.) was still the same powertrain as in the standard, “gas” burning Vic.

The conversion cost at the time was about $2,500 as I recall. This of course is much lower than the cost of building a multiple (and much more complicated) hybrid gas-electric powertrain, with all its specialized components and software to run the works.

At the time,  a CNG powered vehicle struck me as a simpler, cheaper, and so more sensible alternative to hybrid vehicles. It still does today – 20 years later.

Caveats?

You did lose some trunk space to the CNG tanks, but other than that, there were no functional compromises. The CNG-powered cars I tested drove just like the regular gas-burning versions. In the case of the Crown Vic, this meant I got to drive a nice big car with a nice big V-8 instead of a rinky-dinky compact like the typical hybrid car, powered (if you can call it that) by a wheezy four-cylinder supplemented by an electric motor and batteries.

Oh, wait- there was one important difference.

The CNG Vic produced almost no pollution – even relative to the almost-pollution-free “gas” burning modern car, the exhaust stream of of which is 97 percent water vapor and C02 (only an issue if you subscribe to AGW – human-caused global warming). Natural gas is naturally an extremely clean-burning fuel, as anyone who has a gas grille knows. Vehicle exhaust emissions could be dramatically and cheaply reduced simply by converting to CNG – or encouraging production of more CNG-burning vehicles.

No need for hundreds of pounds of toxic batteries and the attendant environmental abuse necessary to mine/process the materials they’re made from. No worries about electrocuting the EMTs if you get into a wreck.

No Hazmat Suit disposal issues, either.

Did I mention it takes only a few minutes to refuel a CNG vehicle? The nozzle/hook-ups are different (pressurized) but the process is essentially the same as it is when you refuel whatever you’re driving now. And takes no more time. You can fuel up and be on your way in minutes – as opposed to waiting hours for your hybrid to recharge its batteries.

The Vic I tested was, moreover, capable of switching from CNG to normal “gas” – eliminating any issue with range/refueling. And even then, refueling with CNG  shouldn’t present a major hassle since we already have a massive infrastructure of natural gas delivery pipelines in place. Homes that use natural gas for heat could be set up with their own private fill-up stations, too.

But here’s the Biggie:

CNG is something we have vast, almost incomprehensible quantities of right here in the United States. How vast? The Energy Information Administration says on the order of 2,543 trillion cubic feet of the stuff.

(See here for more info.)

Even the most conservative estimates say there’s sufficient CNG within the borders of the U.S. alone to provide for current and projected future needs decades down the road, to 2050 and beyond. There is probably enough CNG within the Earth to keep us rolling (and warm and well-fed) for however long it takes to develop something better.

So how come CNG-powered vehicles never caught on? Most of the major car companies pretty much abandoned development of CNG vehicles for the normal consumer market. One of the few consumer-market CNG vehicles you can buy is sold by Honda (see here for details).  But Honda doesn’t do much to talk up the CNG Civic and most of the OEMs (including GM) concentrate on “fleet duty” CNG vehicles for  the commercial market.

Instead they focused – very publicly – on their hybrids.

And that, I suspect, is the answer.

CNG vehicles aren’t sexy – and they’re not politically correct. A six-passenger, V-8 powered big sedan is not what the Watermelons (green on the outside, red on the inside) want the average American to be driving – if he’s even permitted to drive at all.

Since most people are utterly ignorant about both the abundance of  CNG as well as how cleanly it burns, it’s still depressingly simply to characterize CNG powered vehicles as wasteful of scarce resources (bunk) and not as “clean” as hybrids (double bunk).  If anything, a CNG vehicle is arguably cleaner – and greener – than a hybrid. The inputs are less – and so are the outputs. A side benefit worth mentioning is that because CNG burns so cleanly, oil change intervals can be extended and the engine itself ought to last longer. A standard gas-burning engine already has a service life that’s much greater than the economically usable life of a hybrid. A CNG-powered car’s engine should be good for 15-plus years – and easily (and economically) rebuildable, too.  A hybrid powertrain isn’t.

Given all this, you’d think (at least, I’d think) CNG-powered vehicles would be in the limelight, not in the shadows. But it makes sense when you look into it a little – and come to grips with the reality that politics and posturing (with a heaping helping of flapdoodle) govern what goes on – and what we’re allowed to buy – rather than reason and common sense.

Throw it in the Woods?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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33 COMMENTS

  1. Eric,

    I am a regular reader of your posts on LRC. I admire your website and love the fact that a “car guy” like yourself can combine libertarian politics and authoritative gearhead articles. I just finished reading your piece on CNG or compressed natural gas vehicles and was struck by the tone and tenor of it. I had to write.

    You are absolutely correct in your observations about CNG vehicles, but there is an easier and far superior alternative that almost no one ever speaks about; it is propane.

    Propane has been used as a motor fuel for almost 100 years. It has more BTUs per given volume than natural gas, is immensely more transportable as a bulk fuel source and is safer than CNG will ever be. How so? Propane remains a liquid under pressure, as does CNG. But CNG requires approximately 3,500 psi to achieve this. Elaborate compressors and piping equipment make this a hazardous and labor-intensive process. Propane, on the other hand, is liquefied at a fraction of that pressure -just 100 psi or so at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Lower pressure means safer handling and less potential for disaster should a leak occur. And it takes alot less energy to do it.

    Natural gas has other drawbacks, and space is one of them. Years ago, a fleet of city buses in California was converted to CNG. The operators found that the entire roof area of the buses had to be covered with fuel tanks just to be able to drive for a single shift! Propane, providing about 94,000 BTUs per gallon of liquid, could accomplish this feat with a smallish 40 gallon saddle tank bolted to the frame rail.

    Another major drawback is refueling stations – there are literally almost none. The state of New Jersey recently spent about $350,000 to provide a single CNG refueling center for trolley buses plying the tourist trade in Atlantic City. One more is scheduled under the state’s tax-supported Green Initiative. That will provide two places to fuel up in the entire state at the incredible cost of $700,000! Propane, by contrast is already available at over 1,000 locations within that state and almost everyone can name a place close to where they live to get their barbecue cylinder filled. A national refueling network would require almost no investment to begin using this versatile fuel for automobiles.

    So why, one may ask, is propane not more widely used? Why, after the small successes of the 1980’s propane conversion wave has the momentum not continued? One reason: Government regulation.

    Converting a standard gasoline-burning automobile was actually pretty easy (and cheap). By their very nature, propane “mixers” as they are called, could not be over-enriched like a gasoline carburetor. The vehicle will really only draw in a limited amount of propane vapor that is needed. You really couldn’t make the things pollute like a gasoline carb could. Emissions were drastically lower than gasoline emissions and a simple comtroller was developed, primarily for forklift use inside warehouses, that could constantly monitor and maintain CO emissions at a minimum. An entire conversion kit could be had for just a few hundred dollars and was easy enough to install that anyone with good mechanical aptitude could do it.

    Way too easy. Way too effective. So what to do about a truly innovative industry selling a reasonably-priced product that effectively addressed air pollution? Why, we’ll just legislate this problem away! The manufacturers of these after market mixers and conversion kits were basically run out of business when the EPA required them to gain C.A.R.B. certification for their products. Being a car guy, you probably know this to be an expensive proposition. Some say it takes upwards of a couple hundred thousand dollars to certify a single automobile model. No big thing for an auto manufacturer, but quite the nut to crack for a small company like Impco, who was the leading producer of conversion kits into the 1990s. Not only that, but the government insisted that a separate certification be obtained for every car model the kits would apply to. These kits were universal in application, designated correct for each application based soley on cubic inch displacement. Clearly, this was the death knell of the propane conversion industry, and it has never recovered.

    When asking a natural gas executive why his product had eclipsed propane for vehicle conversions over the last few decades, he confided that it was because of money. Propane marketers, with few notable exceptions, tend to be family-run and privately owned businesses. Spending money for lobbying or for research is an alien concept. Heck, the industry had to tax a penny or two for each gallon produced just to fund their own trade organization (PERC). Natural gas has all the money, connections and permanent customers (via gas mains) it could ever want. Hence, CNG continues to be hailed as a wonderful alternate fuel, and propane, despite its superior energy per unit, competitive cost and extensive existing refueling infrastructure remains the red-headed stepchild of the green fuels revolution.

    You are so very correct in your observations about CNG, but propane beats it hands down. Sadly, propane may never see widespread use in this country even though there is almost nothing to prevent it from being used immediately to transform the way we fuel our vehicles. Nothing, it seems, but government influence.

  2. To everyone commenting here: It is your federal government that has and continues to dictate through your EPA that we can’t get CNG or AutoGas (Propane) powered cars. All of our $$$ are being spent on electric cars when no one wants them. It is about control folks. You can call me what you want but when we have a super clean, abundant fuel right here in the US and it would power EVERYTHING WE USE FOR TRANSPORTATION and the Feds continue to push electric, it is about control.
    If we had just 750 CNG stations along the national highway system 90% of the population would have access to CNG. If every city, or small town put in a CNG station and converted their fleets, we would save $1,000,000,000 each and every day by cutting off oil from outside this country. Yes, that is one thousand million dollars!
    Other countries have jumped on the CNG bandwagon and have not only cleaned up their air, they save their citizens money. It is an easy conversion. You CAN’T make a dedicated CNG run dirty. No Cat-Cons, engine oil lasts MUCH longer because it doesn’t get dirty. Exhaust systems last much longer. The air gets cleaner. Ozone is not a problem with CNG/AutoGas.
    It is time to DEMAND that our states stand up and tell the EPA to but out and start having the testicular fortitude to do what is right for all of us.
    Just do a bit of research and you will see that this one action, converting our cars to CNG/Propane, could help lift us out of the depression that our Federal Government/Federal Reserve has put us in.

    • Right on, Grumpy!

      And: In many areas, there already exists the essentials of a CNG infrastructure. For example, I used to live in the Northern Virginia/DC area. A large percentage of the homes there have natural gas heat, so they have natural gas lines already plumbed. It would therefore be relatively easy to plumb in a CNG “filling station” right in your own garage.

      Propane is even better, incidentally.

      But of course, these workable (simple, economical, functional) solutions are not being developed. Which begs the question…. why?

      The answer is what you’ve said: Control.

      The powers-that-be don’t want us to have cheap, abundant energy. That would mean less control for them – and more freedom for us.

      • This goes back to the concept of the REA (i.e. rural electric cooperatives): the government subsidizes something to give the public a perceived benefit in exchange for centralized control. As electricity came into vogue for popular use, the free market would have provided competitive independent generation to rural areas on its own. The downside for the consumer (at least initially) would have been higher fuel and maintenance costs. The upshot would have been individual energy independence and increased liberty.

        The stated, playing on the public’s desire for “cheap” electricity, used taxpayer money to subsidize stringing wires up all over the countryside. This permitted government control to more easily reach out of the cities and towns right into the family farm. This enabled the state to “deny you occupancy” (cut off your power) if you refused to comply with their edicts (like adding a porch on without a permit). And it also gave the state the ability to “regulate” pricing. It’s a win-win situation for the players: the power companies get their monopolies (since many co-ops have no generation of their own and must purchase power) and the state exercises control over rates, the types of fuels used, emission limits, etc. The “Grid” is a collectivist control freak’s ultimate dream!

        The same can be said for big oil’s distribution system for liquid hydrocarbons and the modern automotive industry. Having our own motor fuel stored or on tap at home would restore some of our individual sovereignty. Let’s say you put a 1000 gallon underground propane tank in your backyard with a dip tube for liquid transfers. You could buy fuel when the market is soft and store it long term as a hedge against inflation and seasonal price fluctuation. You would have an efficient source of fuel for hot water, home heating, a back-up generator and your vehicle. It never goes bad and if it leaks it doesn’t contaminate the ground water. As others here have already pointed out, your vehicle’s engine would last longer and emit fewer pollutants. The fuel management system could be much less complex reducing manufacturing and maintenance costs.

        A CNG/LPG vehicle could easily be set up for dual fuel operation like Eric’s test Crown Vic. A lot of the LFG (Land Fill Gas) that is now being flared to destroy it, could be captured, stripped of CO2 and compressed for fuel too. They’re doing just this at the Stoney Hollow Landfill in Dayton, Ohio and sending it down the city pipeline to sell to utility customers just like NG (after all CH4 is CH4 no matter the source).

        So what’s not to like about this? From the statists’ standpoint we’d have more individual choice and autonomy. Plus the oil production infrastructure would take it on the chin thereby cutting into the payoffs to congressmen, senators and regulatory bureaucrats. There’s also the little issue of a reduced need for U.S. military hegemony worldwide which would cut the Pentagram’s power. Plus (at least at first) the state would lose revenue from the gasoline tax. Gee, I wonder why our illustrious government players aren’t promoting this clean, efficient energy source.

        • GREAT points, Boothe! I so appreciate your knowledge and erudition.

          We should use the watermelon’s pseudo-arguments against them; because not only is CH4 abundant and very clean compared to gasoline, it emits less C02 per BTU than gasoline. Not, mind you, that I give a shit about C02…in fact I think the planet needs MORE for the plants.

          Nevertheless you’d be using their momentum against them judo-style by promulgating CH4 as the “green fuel”.

  3. “Since most people are utterly ignorant about both the abundance of CNG as well as how cleanly it burns, it’s still depressingly simply to characterize CNG powered vehicles as wasteful of scarce resources (bunk) and not as “clean” as hybrids (double bunk). If anything, a CNG vehicle is arguably cleaner – and greener – than a hybrid. The inputs are less – and so are the outputs. A side benefit worth mentioning is that because CNG burns so cleanly, oil change intervals can be extended and the engine itself ought to last longer. A standard gas-burning engine already has a service life that’s much greater than the economically usable life of a hybrid. A CNG-powered car’s engine should be good for 15-plus years – and easily (and economically) rebuildable, too. A hybrid powertrain isn’t.”

    You hit the nail on the head here… Why, if we were to use those cars, consumption would go down and thus profits. No can do! We must drain every crevice of oil at any expense before they let the peons have any other options, except for the hybrids and their ilk, that we are forced to accept. Thanks to O and others before him and all those industry payouts to keep the oil flowing.

    Your articles are always excellent.


    If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” – Thomas Jefferson

    Goethe: “No man is ever so fully enslaved as the one who has been convinced he is free”.

  4. A few small consolations: we’re developing enough shale gas to drive the price below $3 per million cubic feet (which is starting to close down further development even before the EPA can), and commercial production of NG burning engines for buses and trucks is underway thanks to Cummins and others. Our county buses use some NG engines. Now we need to deploy enough NG stations across the country to allow long hauling without imported crude – maybe redirect some of that Solyndra money. Private money will see enough incentive, once enough NG engines are in use. Public funds might be needed to reach critical mass, which can certainly be paid for with less stupid “investments.”

    Natural gas reserve estimates are probably low, and already indicate a full century of NG supply. But powerful environmental politics are a real threat to CNG’s future on a large commercial scale. In one of Ohio’s highest unemployment regions, significant reserves were declared off limits to drilling on public land with the support of Senator Brown (D, Ohio). The acreage required to drill was a very small percentage of the publicly controlled land, but there was no room for “compromise.” The EPA is also making noises, so far completely off the mark, about pollution to water wells (Wall St Journal recently). Proper well completion will leave potable water supplies separated from injected fracking fluids by thousands of feet vertically, and monitoring wells have been used in solution mining operations to continuously monitor potable water safety. But the industry needs a chance to produce natural gas from these shale deposits long enough to demonstrate safety in enough locations.

    We’re up against a very powerful “no fossil fuel” mentality at EPA, the White House, and too many others. It just doesn’t matter how advantageous NG applications are, they generate carbon dioxide. So do the hybrids, by burning more fossil fuel at old power plants and losing some of that electricity in transmission to the car battery. But we aren’t looking at the entire life cycle, so hybrid cars, and ethanol for that matter, both got a free pass in spite of some of the same environmental concerns. I guess that was part of the “change” excitement that’s been pushing the country into more bad inconsistent decisions.

    • The real kicker is to see who finances the environmental groups.

      Years ago I concluded that if a device were invented that pulled energy out of the ether, that some dream of Tesla was finally reality, environmentalist groups would create some way of opposing it.

      Cheap energy is one factor that allows people to have time to think about things, to act on those thoughts, and ultimately to oppose the ruling class. Taking away that energy keeps people distracted by struggling to live and thus the ruling class remains in power.

      • “Cheap energy is one factor that allows people to have time to think about things, to act on those thoughts, and ultimately to oppose the ruling class. Taking away that energy keeps people distracted by struggling to live and thus the ruling class remains in power.”

        This is it. The Basic Axiom. Understand it and you will understand politics. Everything that seems insane becomes lucid. Evil, but entirely and methodically sensible – from a certain point of view.

  5. In 1982 I bought a used Toyota SR5 pick-up, got a propane conversion and moved from west to east coast. I paid from 67 cents (in Colorado) to $3.25 for a gallon at a rip off RV center going cross-country. I got about 1.5 mpg less on propane, acceleration was a bit less, but after 10,000 miles, the oil hadn’t changed color. I converted it back to gasoline because I had to drive 45 miles one way to get bulk price propane and not the local RV rip off price in Maryland. The conversion was simple for a carburetor auto. With so much natural gas being burnt off in places like northern Alaska (22 jet engines to burn the methane) since they don’t have a means to transport it and now huge amounts of frozen methane coming through the ice in Russia, CNG/CNP can easily be an economical alternative to gasoline.

  6. I used to work for natural gas utilities. Back in the ’70s we were running 10-20 ton GVW gas/CNG crew trucks. It’s true that there was less power available with CNG but that was only under a real load, e.g., steep hills. In the early ’90s we installed small compressor units on select residential homes as a pilot project. It was a great success from the user perspective but I think the project was dropped for a lack of political correctness.

    Watermelons seem to hate humanity and so never support anything that might actually be beneficial to people in the long run. I think that they are well aware of the hypocrisy associated with hybrids and will one day shrilly demand that they be outlawed. I’ve yet to meet an eco-Nazi who supports electric vehicles to have given any thought whatsoever to how the electricity is generated.

    As the Mogambo Guru says, “we’re all freaking doomed”.

  7. Eric,

    Great article, however I’m curious on one thing. I have natural gas running to my home, and as such I’m well aware of the fail safes involved to keep it safe.

    Forgive my ignorance, but I think if you’re going to bring this to light you need to discuss what I’m about to ask as well. How safe is it to truck around a container full of natural gas constantly, and how is it protected from the whole tank being ignited in case of an accident?

    I’m sure there are fail safes involved, and with years of development could be improved, but what exactly are they?

    • Chris,

      Natural gas has a pretty narrow explosive range, 5-15%. Any concentration above or below and it won’t burn. It also has a much higher ignition temperature than gasoline, ~1160F compared to ~500F for gasoline (quick web searches confirmed my memory). Seems much safer than gasoline to me from that standpoint. The tanks we had in our utility trucks were like welding tanks due to the high compression of the nat gas and MUCH stronger than a typical gasoline tank.

  8. About 20 yrs ago, my girlfriend had and drove a converted CNG “K-car”. It was sluggish and there were less than 10 places in an area populated by about 500K people where she could fill-up. The problem was infrastructure. Politics not as much here in ontario.

  9. For the last two years I have been running a 2007 Impala CNG converted vehicle, with a home refueling station. I can say this is the best investment I have made. The lack of CNG refueling infrastructure being the main obstacles to the publics acceptance.

  10. Down here in Brazil, CNG cars are pretty common. As a matter of fact, many new cars run on gas, ethanol *and* CNG (what we call “total flex” cars, as opposed to just “flex” cars, which run on ethanol and gas, which are the vast majority of new cars). Major cities and major highways have CNG in many gas stations (gas stations here usually offer gas, diesel and ethanol; where there are pipelines, they will also offer CNG). Taxes are less expensive for ethanol- and CNG-powered cars, even if they still are, by American standards, absurdly high.
    I’ve heard expat Americans say that Brazilian car and gas prices seem to be controlled by Greenpeace!
    The same made-in-Brazil car costs twice as much here as in the USA, where you import it – you can check Brazilian market prices at http://www.fipe.org.br/web/index.asp?v=c&p=54&aspx=/web/indices/veiculos/novos.aspx ; remember that R$1,76 = US$1.
    Fuel taxes are lower, too: gas costs around US$5.90 a gallon (and it is not pure gas, as there is a more of less large proportion – 1/5 – of ethanol added to it), and one gallon of ethanol costs around US$4.
    I don’t know the price for CNG (as a matter of fact, I drive a 1977 GM Opala and a 1967 CJ6 Jeep, both gas-only), but I do know that it makes economic sense to run on it.
    The problems are:
    CNG-powered cars are weaker (less HP) than gas-powered cars; it is
    common to be forced to flick the CNG/gas switch to go uphill if your car is full, for instance. Besides, if you run on it all the time, the gas lines get too dry and you can have gas leaks.
    CNG depends on pipelines, so you can never stray too much from the
    bigger roads, and even if you fill your car with cylinders you won’t be able to travel much with it. The same volume of your gas tank in CNG cylinders will get you more or less 1/6 of the distance you’d travel on gas.
    Ethanol-fueled cars also have a worse mileage than gas-powered cars (it is only worth using ethanol when it is 70% or less than the price of gas).
    Perhaps it would be a good idea to invest on CNG stations in one major American city and just import Brazilian “total flex” cars. 🙂

    • My CNG knowledge is from the early 90s so I may not be remembering things quite right but as I recall the power loss is a function of the dual fuel. That the power loss can be solved with dedicated CNG or with more expensive dual fuel systems.

      Yep. It takes considerable volume for the tanks. On the truck conversion I was familiar with, it seemed like a 1/3 of the bed was taken by CNG tanks as well as the original fuel tank area.

      Ethanol has less energy per unit volume, so all fuel economy figures measured per volume of fuel will suffer.

  11. Subject: 1964 Plymouth Valiant

    Mr. Peters: I always enjoy your columns on LewRockwell.com

    I’d love to read your comments on the 1964 Plymouth Valiant, push-button transmission, slant 6 engine. It was my first car. I bought it from my college roommate in 1978 for $100, with 90,000 miles on it. I put another 100,000 miles on it, and sold it in 1984 for $500. The fellow I sold it to drove it another 100,000, and the tie rods broke on an expressway in Buffalo, and the tow-truck operator offered him $500 just for the engine.

    I heard once that with modern technology, (and without government rules and regulations and requirements, the 64 Valiant could be made today for $800. Do you think that is true?

    Why can’t we bring that car back. It was a great car!

    Sincerely,
    Paul Likoudis

    • Hi Paul,

      That car (and that engine) was legendary for being over-engineered and so, almost indestructible. Also very easy – and cheap – to rebuild, which meant the thing could be kept going almost forever.

      I doubt such a car could be built new for $800 but I am certain it could be built for much less than $8,000 – which is easily $2,000 less than the least expensive new car currently available (the Nissan Versa 1.6).

      But, it can’t be built – legally – because it would never meet current “safety” and “emissions” standards.

    • The ’64 valiant could be made for $800 in 1964 money. 🙂

      More seriously there are 1960s cars that can be built from scratch today. retail it runs about the same as their modern counterparts. Roughly figuring all the profit in those parts and savings of mass production and that cars like the 6cyl valiant were somewhat cheaper than the ones reproduced… I figure you’re looking at about what small costs to make these days.

      If you really wanted to make the valiant cheaper it wouldn’t be the same car any more. Much of the design would need to be changed to take advantage of modern manufacturing methods. There would be no slant 6 in this case, because inline 6cylinder engines pose manufacturing issues that drive up cost. It would also likely be fwd drive because rwd is more expensive to manufacture.

      Doing all that, I’d say you’d get something retailing in the neighborhood of today’s cheapest new cars.

  12. good article eric

    we used to have lpg powered tractors on the farm in the 60’s

    my recollection was that lpg was cheaper that gasoline or diesel

    enjoy your stuff

    g

    indiana

  13. … the almost-pollution-free “gas” burning modern car, the exhaust stream of of which is 97 percent water vapor and C02 …

    That makes two articles now in which you have asserted this proportion for the exhaust, “Pssst: It’s Still About a Buck a Gallon” and “The CNG Alternative”. It’s incorrect. You have left out the main gas: atmospheric nitrogen. Although it is irrelevant to the pollution issue, it matters a great deal to the working of your engine because it provides a working fluid that helps convert the heat energy, given by burning the fuel to get its chemical energy, into mechanical energy. Without that the engine would run impractically hot.

  14. In UK, Europe, India and other countries that have high gasoline prices, Liquefied Petroleum Gas retrofit conversions are popular on older vehicles. The fuel is cheaper and burns cleaner (more complete combustion) and you spend fewer dollars per mile. Heck, I saw a C3 Corvette here in the States that had been converted by the owner to run on propane. His propane was sourced from RV supply outlets. Cost him much less per mile in fuel costs.

    The primary reason you don’t see this fuel source pushed is, as you mentioned, the leftist politics of controlling your freedom of movement, which cheap fuels allow more of. It’s also stymied by crony capitalism, which by diktat favors expensive/ artificially profitable hybrid powertrains. If the great unwashed figured out that existing autos could be inexpensively retrofitted to run with CNG/ LPG/ Propane, and engines would last longer, how could it justify the piles of R&D taxpayer grants, subsidies, and greenie tax-credits? Don’t forget the cynicism of today’s hybrid car tax credits that are limited to the first few thousand hybrid vehicles sold by an automaker. Whom do those tax-credits benefit? Only those who are relatively more affluent… the common man subsidizing the effective tax rates of the rent-seekers.

    • You forgot the safety angle of letting any average moron refuel a CNG car. Yes that was one of the arguments against it back in the day because it’s a little more than just sticking the nozzle in the hole.

      ultimately CNG got stuck in the chicken-egg infrastructure problem. Nobody would build the CNG infrastructure without the cars and nobody would buy the cars without the infrastructure. They are sold to utilities because they own the infrastructure that exists and it isn’t a pain in the ass for them.

      They could have done dual fuel but people wouldn’t pay for it without an easy supply of CNG. It seemed to me that automakers ended up selling their flex fuel ethanol vehicles for the same as the regular ones or close to it. Still remember a letter to a car column where some guy thought the dealer sold him some lesser or more problem prone car when he got a flex fuel for regular price. Columnist then had to explain how he got car with an upgraded fuel system.

      Now if there were a way to do this with a tap off the home meter 🙂 That would really get the safety crowd moaning.

      • Two points about CNG / LPG that will help keep it stymied. (1) Safety / burnings / explosions / frost-bite: These concerns could be taken care of with education, ad campaigns, improved fill nozzle design and float style shut offs on the tank (like gas grill bottles are now required to have). And yes, with the proper compressor set up (albeit expensive), one could literally fill up off the ol’ meter at the house. (2) Filling up at that cool new tap you just put in the gas line to your house, down at the local RV store or neighborhood LP dealer cuts the gubmint out of “their” road taxes. If LPG / CNG catches on, they’d have to come up with some method of tracking vehicle fuel vs. home heating fuel, since “dying” gaseous hydrocarbons, like they do diesel fuel, is out of the question. More likely, they’d probably tack a highway use tax on all LPG / NG. Just like they make all of us pay for the schools and other “social services” many of us don’t use. After all, it would only be fair…..just ask a Clover!

        • You know that is not a bad idea for a questions and answers section. We could have a spot called “Just Ask Clover.” Or better yet, maybe he can make his own site and leave this one alone! I’ve blocked his last three ip addresses, but he keeps coming back. He’s like a cockroach! They use LP in all the cabs in Japan. When I was there at the age of 12 they were doing it. They still are. I’m 35 now.

      • I own one of these rigs. it is a 2001 Ford Expedition XLT with dual fuel capability, running off of gasoline and propane. And the chicken-egg thing does NOT hold true for propane vehicles. This is because there are plenty of retail places that sell propane for gas stoves, and RVs in every city in america. there are 2 of them 1 mile from my house. Fueling takes a bit longer on a propane vehicle because the guy has to come out and hook it up for you. there is a bleeder valve that has to be opened when filling a propane truck, just like filling a propane grill bottle. But other than that, it’s all fine. As for the average moron statement, the average guy is NOT a moron, and after doing this twice will get the hang of it. Just remind him “No smoking unless you want to see what Mars looks like, personally.”

        • Thanks for the input, Paul – it’s good to hear about some real-world experiences with CNG/Propane. It’s been a few years since I last drove one, but the ones I have driven impressed me. I especially liked that you could still drive a big car like the Crown Vic as opposed to a medium-small car, as most hybrids are.

        • While CNG and propane are similar fuels chemically their storage and transfer is considerably different. And I am just stating that such an argument was made, not that I agree with it or not, but it was an argument against CNG.

  15. My electric utility company periodically sells CNG-powered trucks that are being cycled out of their fleet. That’s a soure to consider, if one doesn’t want to pay a new car price for the little Civic.

  16. Interesting article. The ruling class knows that artificial monopolies are best for them and like things the way they are. Consider Venezuelan gas is 12 cents a gallon, Nigerian is 38 cents, Egyptian is 65 cents, and Amsterdamian gas is 648 cents a gallon. Its the same product, obviously the 196 national holding pens enforced since WWI have permitted the governments and crony corporations to charge crippling prices to the various captive citizens. The ability to even perceive what’s going on will soon become extinct. Clovers are a new type of men, and they are inheriting the earth from the Gods of the Copybook Headings right before our eyes.
    The clovers, better known taxonomically as Homo Trifolium, are an authoritarial imprinting species of humanoids. The clover newborn acquires its behavioral characteristics from the state or a state controlled device. Unlike sapiens, which imprint on their parents and then follow them around, Trifolia imprint on a health institution worker, a television, or medical machinery. Due to absent or disinterested parents, a young trifolium’s first suitable moving stimulus within the critical period between 13–16 hours after hatching is often a rule following device or a rule following worker. The rest of their youngest formative years are spent in front of televisions and within autocratic daycare prison environments.
    Trifolium that are hatched and developed in captivity have no mentor men to teach them their traditional manly skills and attitudes. They see both an oak tree and the divorce and child support legal conventions as equivalent immutable creations of nature. The law of gravity and the speed limit are both THE LAW and never to be questioned or even fully comprehended.
    In a free society of men, we might modify our vehicles to run on methane or plutonium, whatever we wanted. Its nice to dream and reminisce in this new dark green age. Reading a site like this is great for my equanimity. In these lands of the blind, a man with one eye enjoys a few moments without his mandatory eyepatch.

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