The Unmentionable Alternative

105
7015
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The first reason originally given for the necessity of force-feeding electric cars to people was the supposedly imminent scarcity (and associated rising cost) of gasoline. This was en vogue back in the ‘90s – when the first electric cars came out – and quickly went away, because back in the ‘90s there were no subsidies to float them and no mandates to force them.

But the whole point of the exercise, we were constantly told, was that we had to find an alternative to fossil fuels right away – because we were on the cusp of running out of them.

Except it turns out we’re not.

There is so much gas, in fact, that a new excuse had to be found – “climate change,” the wonderfully elastic hypothesis that whatever the weather is doing that isn’t 70 degrees, calm and quiet is unnatural, alarming and the fault of man in general and the internal combustion engine specifically.

Actually, not – but something had to be found to make it “necessary” to replace the IC engine.

Which brings up a related thing – the suppression by purposeful omission of any discussion of a fuel that’s even more abundant than the oceans of gasoline we find ourselves swimming in – and so clean it makes the electric car’s “environmental” bona fides seem as shoddy as a mail order divinity degree.

And without any of the electric car’s long list of functional and economic downsides.

That fuel is compressed natural gas (CNG)  and the fact that you probably haven’t heard anything about ought to tell you a great deal about it.

CNG is mostly methane – a naturally occurring and renewable gas – stored in liquid form by pressurizing it. The stuff isn’t refined – the way gasoline  and diesel must be. It literally comes out of the earth and only needs to be captured (and compressed) and put into storage tanks before it’s ready to be used as a fuel.

That – plus almost limitless abundance – makes CNG a very inexpensive fuel.

The United States is the world’s leading producer of CNG – more than 71 billion cubic feet (which is how the stuff is measured) per day. Which is more than the entire Middle East combined.

Proven reserves are in excess of 309 trillion cubic feet – and that could be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg – as it has proved to be with regard to oil, which suddenly America turns out to have vastly more of than the fear-sayers were telling us lo these past 50 years – until it became embarrassing for them to continue telling us.

Estimated “recoverable” reserves are almost double the proven and it is probable that America’s actual CNG reserves are or triple or even more than the estimated recoverable 500-plus trillion cubic feet – given we don’t really know how much is down there, nor what new methods will become available to get it in the coming years, just as with crude oil (which becomes gasoline and diesel and other things besides).

But even if not, that 309 trillion is still enough to provide for at least the next 100 years of consumption.

By which time a viable (economically sensible, functionally gimp-free) EV might be developed and able to stand on its own four wheels, without subsidies or mandates to keep it rolling.

But it might not be worth even bothering with – given how superior an alternative CNG is to electricity as a fuel for motor vehicles.

First, the range and recharge issues that gimp electric cars are non-issues with CNG.

As with a gasoline-powered car, the CNG-powered car’s range is a function of how much fuel is in the tank and how much fuel the engine uses. The storage tanks – which are pressurized tanks – are larger than a gasoline or diesel tank – but that can be obviated via finding extra room for them in larger vehicles. CNG is therefore the perfect fuel for a big car – such as a full-size sedan or large SUV or truck – the kinds of vehicles Americans prefer and which don’t require subsidies or mandates to “stimulate” their sale.

No more downsizing of cars – or engines!

No more contrived need (because of government fuel-saving flapdoodle) for technological annoyances such as ASS – the Automatic Start/Stop systems most new cars have, not because customers like their cars to shut off at every red light and stop sign but because it’s a way to eke out a teensy MPG uptick, to placate the Feds.

Abundant fuel means no justification for top-down energy austerity measures (well, for us; these austerity measures never apply to those in the government and the fellow-traveling elites pushing for them can always easily afford to end-run them – just ask Escalade-driving Al Gore or jet-setting Leonardo diCaprio).

And smaller tanks – and shorter driving range – aren’t a big problem, either. Because CNG vehicles don’t need hours to refuel, like electric cars.

Or an expensive all-new infrastructure, either.

Many American homes already have CNG plumbing – for heat and appliances. Altering the plumbing to make home refueling (like home recharging) feasible ought to be technically as well as economically possible – and even if it costs too much to make that possible, or there is a technical problem, there is no hours-long refueling problem. CNG-powered cars can be back on the road almost as quickly as gas or diesel-powered cars – eliminating the most crippling functional problem with electric cars.

CNG is safer than electric.

The possibility of a fire after a crash is less because the CNG tanks are located in just one part of the car (like the gas tank in a gas or diesel-powered car). Unless that particular part of the car is damaged in an impact, there is very little risk of a breach and a fire. EVs, on the other hand, have their batteries spread out over almost the entire length of the car, so that any impact threatens damage to the battery pack. And EV battery packs are more likely to ignite because a spark is not necessary.

EV battery packs can – and have – spontaneously combusted.

With CNG – as with gas and diesel – even a leak does not necessarily mean a fire. There must be a spark to ignite the fuel. And CNG is less flammable than gasoline, making a fire even less likely than in a gas-powered car, let alone an EV.

CNG is also better for the environment in terms of actual pollution – as well as imagined pollution.

The fuel system is sealed, so there’s no vapor leak of hydrocarbons (as with gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles) during fueling and when burned, CNG combustion results in almost no harmful byproducts – the materials which cause or worsen air pollution, such as those unburned hydrocarbons and also particulate matter (nil) and virtually nil oxides of nitrogen and carbon monoxide.

CNG-powered vehicles qualify as “partial zero-emissions” (PZEV) vehicles – which are a hair’s breadth difference from “zero emissions” electric cars – which aren’t really because electricity production also produces emissions – ad not just carbon dioxide emissions.

Speaking of which.

Even if you buy the “climate change” shuck-and-jive (which you shouldn’t; read up on it and you’ll see the thing is grotesquely overstated and rests on shakier scientific ground than a three-foot-high Jenga tower) CNG is damned competitive even when it comes to C02 “emissions.” They are much lower than an equivalent gas or diesel-powered car would produce – and very possible less in the aggregate than electric cars would produce.

And if environmental considerations are to be the deciding considerations, then everything associated with EVs must be taken into consideration – including the manufacturing effluvia associated with the making of their batteries, as well as disposable/recycling issues – none of which are issues at all with CNG.

CNG, finally, is much cheaper than electricity – or at least, than electrically-powered cars.

The current price per-gallon equivalent is less than the cost of regular unleaded (see here) or just over two bucks per.

And the CNG-powered car itself is much less expensive than an electric car because it is a conventional car in all other respects. Any existing IC engine can be converted to operate on CNG – either full-time or part-time (another advantage over the electric car, which relies on one fuel only).

A CNG conversion adds about $4,000 to the price of an existing car – which means you’d pay a lot less to drive it than you would an electric car, which costs more than twice as much as an otherwise-equivalent non-electric car.

And no waiting to get going, either.

All of which explains why you almost never hear about the CNG alternative.

It’s the answer to a question they don’t want anyone to ask.

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

If you like what you’ve found here please consider supporting EPautos. 

We depend on you to keep the wheels turning! 

Our donate button is here.

 If you prefer not to use PayPal, our mailing address is:

EPautos
721 Hummingbird Lane SE
Copper Hill, VA 24079

PS: Get an EPautos magnet (pictured below) in return for a $20 or more one-time donation or a $5 or more monthly recurring donation. (Please be sure to tell us you want a sticker – and also, provide an address, so we know where to mail the thing!)

My latest eBook is also available for your favorite price – free! Click here.  

 

 

 

Share Button

105 COMMENTS

  1. Nice in theory but one simple fact blows the entire analysis out of the water. Annual US demand is approximately 32TCF. 300 TCF of reserves sound like a lot (and it is) but at the current rate of consumption, that is only 10 years of supply. Even if reserves end up to three times the reported figure, that’s still only 30 years of supply and also means that production will peak long before that time.

    But it gets worse. The above assumes a constant level of demand, but demand is growing due to the phase out of coal for environmental reasons. Add in industrial demand (massive petrochemical capital expenditures) and the enormous build-out of LNG export terminals and we should continue to see skyrocketing demand-led supply growth in the coming years. So while we have massive reserves, the rate at which we are consuming those reserves is staggering. The idea that we can increase demand for natural gas even further by converting the transportation sector over to CNG is simply not feasible.

  2. It IS the answer to the question they don’t want anyone to ask.

    In Oklahoma, I was able to purchase a CNG conversion kit for a Ford Explorer. I also admit to taking advantage of the local gas utility provider’s generosity with its customers’ (and shareholders’) money in purchasing a home compressor and pump to connect to my gas line, so that I could always return home to refuel my SUV. With an auxiliary tank in back, I get 600 miles per fill-up. And one other benefit: There are plenty of refueling stations for CNG throughout the state!

    Total costs:
    Conversion of SUV: $4,000
    Compressor/pump: 2,400 (which my utility let me pay at 0% interest for 2 years)

    Cost for home and SUV was $6,400.

    If I refuel on the road, I pay the equivalent of $1.50 per gallon of gas.

    Getting back to the point of the article: The feds don’t want to promote this because it is their aim to remove all non-electric vehicles from the road, similar to Cash for Clunkers.

    Keep in mind the statement of the Bolsheviks from 100 years ago: “The machine only moves forward.” Everything is about forcing change upon the people, no matter the pain or the cost (to the people).

  3. CNG makes engines pretty gutless though. Some of our busses converted to CNG, but they can only be used on the surface streets. They don’t have enough power to go up the canyon roads at any reasonable speed.

  4. Peter, you fell for the renaming to “Climate Change”. Don’t ever use that term. Stick with “Global Warming”.

    They changed it about 10 years ago when all the dire predictions of the earth being molten by now didn’t come true.

    Climate change can mean anything since the climate already changes all the time. As such, as a theory it is non-falsifiable. Global warming is much more specific and easier to disprove.

  5. When Ford was still making cars in Geelong Australia, they ran a fleet of supply trucks being your normal big rigs, between their Geelong and Broadmeadows plants, a distance of 100 kilometers on Compressed natural gas. Had no major troubles that I heard of.

    Also I had a GM Statesman of 2000 vintage that was on dual fuel, the other fuel being LPG. Liquefied propane gas. Many taxis and high mileage vehicles made in Australia run LPG. In addition to petrol fuel. Switch instantly between the 2 fuels, and refuel in the same amount of time. My experience was that there was less than 10% difference in fuel economy between the 2 fuels. The price difference amounted to 2 liters of LPG for 1 litre of petrol. With the increase of taxes on LPG, that gap has narrowed. Both fuels are highly taxed here in Australia, so much that if we had US tax rates, we would have much cheaper petrol than the US. As we do not have the freezer cold temps that the US has, I can’t say anything about cold weather performance, other than I never had any problems starting at temps down to -2 deg C.

  6. Refueling CNG is quick relative to slow charging the EV. Unfortunately it can be im par with the quick chargers, albeit not limited to 80% range.

    I drove CNG buses for my alma mater as well as a few Civics. It generally took 10 minutes for the Civic and 20-25 minutes for the bus. If it was cold out it would be even longer. No joke, 45 minutes or more for the buses. And that was AFTER that upgraded the compressors.

    The diesel buses typically filled in 5 minutes unless it was cold, when the bio diesel would gel, so we switched to regular diesel.

    Home filling is not likely. The compressors and pumps to enable quick refueling would be expensive. Otherwise it’s an overnight affair.

    • Hi Freak,

      10 minutes – to full (for the CNG car) – vs. at least 30-45 minutes (to 80 percent)… no contest!

      Of course, gasoline (and diesel) are still much more convenient – and better in most other ways as well. But my point in re the article was that if we really do need an “alternative,” then CNG is case-closed preferable to EVs.

      • Oh, I agree that cng would be preferable to electric.

        I was just pointing out that it too has issues, and it isn’t anywhere close to prime time.

        10 minutes…. in ideal conditions. And that time requires the expensive pumps and compressors. It too lacks a transportation infrastructure for refueling. DOE shows just 951 cng/LNG locations in the US and Canada. Short of extremely high storage pressures, and stri more expensive, a typical automotive cng tank is functionality “smaller.” And so requires refueling more often.

        That said, unlike electric, the technology to expand cng does exist. It’s just a matter of cost.

  7. There were a lot more electric car models in 1890 than there were in 1990.
    Natural gas needs to be sweetened as often as crude oil, and requires much more compression to keep it moving in pipelines versus pumping for crude.
    If natural gas is to be used in electric generation, it makes much more sense to do the generation in the gasfield than after pushing it through a pipeline, given electricity’s 85%+ delivery efficiency and cost.
    Very large numbers of urban busses are being fuelled by natural gas, now that mass transit services can reap a public relations coup along with a federal subsidy. Since the major disincentive to taking mass transit is having to subject oneself to the cattlecar environment, it is highly likely that driverless electric cars will replace most other urban mass transit, because it will reduce wait times to nothing and provide a secure and personal experience no bus or light rail can provide. A driverless electric car need never break down if it has a competent self-diagnostic system that can insure that it can, at worst, limp itself into a repair center.
    Those willing to submit themselves to living in highrise prisons after the Jersey barriers close all the interstate accesses will be unlikely to object to giving up personal gasoline-fuelled vehicles that will make them the target of regular popular derision among their neighbors.

  8. I own SkyCNG which is a CNG bi-fuel conversion parts supplier. There is a lot of bad information and significant points about CNG I’d like to address:

    1. Forget about home fueling stations. It can’t be done… at least not for profit and it RARELY makes sense for a vehicle owner unless they drive 100k miles per year. If a good solution existed, then I would sell it. It doesn’t.
    2. Bi-fuel is the answer. CNG pumps are super convenient to many people… but with a bi-fuel kit you can enjoy either gasoline or CNG. We don’t impact the gasoline system at all. Push a button or set it to automatically switch to gasoline when you run out of CNG.
    3. The CNG tanks are expensive and almost NEVER can be installed under a vehicle. Pickups and SUVs are best or you can put the tank in your trunk. Tank cost about $100-150 per gallon but there are many variable that impact like steel versus carbon fiber, etc.
    4. The EPA tries to get in the way… don’t let it. Forget “EPA certified kits”. Waste of money.
    5. Lots of bad CNG kit suppliers have poisoned the well. Forums are full of drivers complaining about reliability and check engine lights. Ebay was full of Chinese parts… and still is. South America and India have a lot of bad stuff you can buy in the USA, too. Just remember, you get what you pay for.
    6. No matter how good the parts are, you probably aren’t qualified to install yourself… that’s another reason CNG got a bad name. Back yard mechanics bit off more than they could chew. Our kits are tuned with a laptop. Lots of old timers have no idea how to touch that.

    Any questions just look me up.

    • I was involved in a couple of dozen bi-fuel conversions in the early-mid 1990’s and was purchasing OE bi-fuel vehicles at that time as well. I never thought the bi-fuel option was a good idea, since the gasoline engine isn’t optimized for the higher octane of the CNG. Those early CNG conversions were terrible – you were essentially removing a perfectly good gasoline fuel injection system, and replacing it with a forklift carburetor. I don’t doubt that the technology has improved remarkably since then, but I still believe that an engine designed specifically for CNG fuel is the best option. Fuel storage is definitely a limitation, but that can be overcome by deploying CNG in the correct applications (vans are best). I’m sure that fuel storage technology would have advanced if our government masters hadn’t decided that EV’s would be the “winners.” There was some innovation in that area years ago, but it dried up.

  9. My friend wanted to give me his Ford stake bed truck a few years back. He had trouble in cold weather with the CNG. I designed a heater system for the tank and plumbing to the carburetor but in extreme cold -10F° or lower the heater would be a problem with battery power. I tried several fixes and landed of high current pulse width modulation, but that isn’t without problems. Over all the performance was equal after we put in a different cam shaft for more low end power. All that said “I loved the truck, especially when I was filling up with $1.99 per gallon/pound of fuel.

  10. Eric – this article is so spot on. I spent 15 years of my career managing and promoting CNG vehicles. I worked for a public utility – the federal Clean Air Act required us to have a certain percentage of CNG vehicles in our fleet, but I went beyond the Acts’s minimum requirements, as I really saw the value of these vehicles in certain applications. At one point, we had almost 100 CNG vehicles of various types, including heavy trucks. I built a major CNG refueling facility for our fleet, and also opened another CNG facility to the public. Bought a Honda Civic GX (CNG) for our family and put more than 200K on it. I felt so strongly that CNG would become a major alternative fuel that I even bought a bunch a Clean Energy Corp (CLNE) stock (bad move). Alas, the feds do tend to pick winners and losers, and the Elon Musks of the world became the winners. The natural gas fuel market would never be allowed to succeed. It’s such a shame, as natural gas has so much potential as a transportation fuel.

    • Thanks,Keith – and, amen… if we needed an alternative to gasoline/diesel, CNG makes the most sense from a functional, economic and economic point-of-view. Which no doubt explains why it’s been shunted aside in favor of electric cars – for reasons I’ve written about and which have placed a target on my back (will get into this in a forthcoming rant).

  11. While I agree that CNG is an awesome alternative fuel, accessing the gas is financed under the assumption of ZIRP in perpetuity based on the Federal Reserves quantitative expansion (QE) (now being somewhat reversed).

    When interest rates increase all those heavily leveraged exploration and drilling companies will come crashing down like the housing market again.

    • My suspicion is that one reason why electrical power plants are being pushed away from coal and onto natural gas is that The Powers That Be prefer that power plants burn a fuel that cannot be conveniently stockpiled. I am not saying that is the only reason, but that it may be one reason that is not popularly considered. In today’s civilization the ability to shut off the power is as important as the old empires which ruled based on control of water or food.

      • Coal requires more scrubbing then sweetened (if necessary) natural gas does.
        Since Wyoming has the cleanest coal in the US, it is common to build coal-fired plants near to coal mines. There is one east of Gillette that sends the coal to the plant on a conveyor belt.

  12. About a dozen years ago NYC had some of these cars in their fleet. They drove the same as any other car but we had to drive to JFK airport to refuel which was far from our uptown office. They used a Honda Civic which is a small car and that limited its range. It makes for an interesting comparasion to the hybrid technology.

  13. Also, cracking methane into longer carbon chains like Gasoline and Jet-A and Diesel makes more sense than CNG. The process is expensive but would provide these 3 highly useful long-haul transport hydrocarbons forever since methane is being produced in the Earth at MUCH higher rate than we could ever use it. The only viable alternative to HC is hydrogen fuel cell…It is a specific energy/thermodynamics thing.

    The public school/TV-watching retards will never understand that global warming CAUSES higher atmospheric CO2. They got it backwards.

        • Cheapest way to generate electricity, if using existing power stations. Unfortunately any new nuclear production has to include the unreasonable costs incurred by forcing the potential operator to hire teams of lawyers to deal with the never ending lawsuits and regulatory demands that account for nearly 50% of the building cost. Not to mention nuclear is the only power generation method that is required to pay up front for waste disposal based on estimations provided by Uncle.

          The greens got what they wanted, no nukes. Now we face a cold and dark future based on scarcity.

          • “The greens got what they wanted, no nukes. Now we face a cold and dark future based on scarcity.”

            That’s what was wanted all along. Well at least since the collectivists under the so-called elite got control of environmental movements.

            • You need to realize that the political terrorist elite ultimate goal is human depopulation. Nuclear power would make humans flourish.

          • Nuclear power is only affordable because government limited the legal liability in the event of a meltdown, which as every Libertarian knows, would not exist in a free market.

            • Or, perhaps the early designs (none of which are in use in the US these days) weren’t engineered well enough to be considered safe by the free market, so for expediencies sake Uncle put his thumb on the scales to favor Rickover’s choice.

              Just about every way you look at it, nuclear power is the safest way to generate electricity. Even when you take into account Fukushima and Chernobyl, which I have to point out were designs that were never used in the United States and had no containment domes. TMI had a containment dome, the only reason people panicked was because of Dick Thornburgh’s overreaction.

              • Nuclear power has safety problems. The main one is there is no way to safely dispose of the waste products. The government buried some in Nevada years go but it will be radioactive long after the container rots away.

                • Not if Carter hadn’t outlawed reprocessing in the 70s because of nuclear proliferation concerns.

                  Using breeders reactors and reprocessing would allow you to use nearly all the potential energy of the fuel and burn it to short-lived isotopes.

                  Right now, only about 1% of the Uranium is used before it has to be removed because of accumulated daughter products that poison the fuel.

                • You are limiting options to fusion only, where molecules are added together, making other products that last a long time, and will not generate heat in a suitable manner to use for power generation.

                  BUT there is FUSION, where molecules are split, making smaller ones as waste products…. ones that do not last very long before they lose their radioactivity.

                  (I may have the two processes reversed in my mind… been a LONG brutal week, and brain is fuzzy.).

                  France have been using the safer one for decades now, and have very little issues with rdioactive waste. I never had anyone explain to me why WE can’t use that system, except that the companies that “own” our gummit work with the nasty persistent-waste system……as usual, money is more important that practicality or safety.

              • The Soviets knew that RBMK reactors were unsafe from the beginning. They just didn’t care because they provided the easiest means of producing Plutonium for their nuclear weapons.

                You should read about their first nuke plant for generating Plutonium. They ran the coolant in an open cycle where hot water from the reactor in contact with the nuclear fuel was pumped back into the nearby lake to cool off. That water had a radioactivity of around 1000 rem/hr. Enough to kill you if you stood at the edge of the lake for 20 minutes.

          • I don’t think that is going to be true soon. Solar panels have gotten cheap enough now that they cost less to install than to run existing coal plants. Soon they will probably outcompete nuclear plants too.

              • Indeed, but as long as solar panels are cheaper than coal, that is what people are going to invest in.

                At least until they become a significant percentage of the grid power, at which point they will destabilize it because of their intermittent nature.

                Then some cost-effective storage solution will have to be invented to continue adding solar to the grid.

                • You have to figure in not only the cost of the panels, but of the land to place them on and the repercussions of allocating that land to solar farms.

                  The reason I included the link to that book is that it does the math of what would be required to replace “fossil fuel” power plants with alternatives such as solar and their economic and environmental impact.

                  • I’m pretty sure the land cost was factored in and solar was still cheaper. This was the price of utility-scale solar, which would have levelized all costs for accurate comparison.

                    As far as environmental costs, I have no idea.

                    • Let’s get real here. Would you please cite some unbiased research that shows solar as a cheaper source of energy than coal or nuclear? It’s impossible. Solar requires optimum conditions, and enormous amounts of surface area to even be competitive. It can succeed in certain areas, but will never provide more than a fraction of our energy needs. Let’s compare energy sources – in winter, above 40 degrees latitude.

                    • I find that extremely hard to believe. Given the extremely large area required for mass production of solar power, the hardware required to convert it to high voltage AC for transmission, and costs for a nighttime electrical storage system, I smell a big gunvermin rat at work in cooking the books.

                      The theoretical maximum you’re going to get out of solar panels is about a kilowatt per square meter. That’s in Death Valley at high noon with 100% efficiency, which you are not going to get anywhere near in real life. (Efficiency of the panels, while it has improved in recent years, drops over time as well as the panels age.) The cost in land area, possible environmental effects, and lost opportunity alone to massively “go solar” are ginormous, without even getting into the expense of the hardware.

                      What makes “renewable” energy economically feasible at all is favoritism meted out by armed thugs.

                    • I belive all the things you are promotint (solar, renewables, etc) fully explain why my electicity costs, same usage in same house for thirty years, remained steady at $22-23/month for twenty years, but in the past sight or so have TRIPLED. Same KwHr/Mo usage. Checked old bills. I am NOT fooling myself.
                      You can take your solar, wind, etc and stuff it where the solar panels won’t work cause its mguhty dark in there.

                      And there is NO WAY the cost of the land use involved for large scale solar generation was inluded.

                    • If you install your own solar panels on your roof, they have a payback time of about 5 years. That is pretty good for a risk-free investment.

                      If your power prices have increased, you should install solar so you can get your power for cheaper. I have friends that have installed them and are very happy with the savings.

                    • Residential solar panels will most definitely NOT have a payback time of only 5 years if you actually pay for them rather than accept subsidies.

                      I get calls from the solar energy hucksters. When I ask them what the REAL sunk cost of the panels is without armed thugs stealing from my neighbors to pay for them there are just crickets on the other end.

                      I will not accept such subsidies and refuse to install ugly, expensive, dangerous (in the even of fire) solar panels on my roof.

                    • Show me a residential solar system for under $5,000 before government subsidy.

                      Because that’s what it has to be for any hope of a payback for me in five years. And that’s expecting full output all year and where I am 4-6 months of the year will have very low energy production.

                    • Hi Brent,

                      Same issue here. Right now, I am looking outside at heavy fog and a crust of ice/freezing rain over everything. Solar would be useless for me today – and many days during the winter here in SW Va.

                      We had a big ice storm about a month ago that dropped branches all over the place, some of them heavy. Trees, too. What are the odds of a solar system being damaged over the course of say ten years? How much does that cost factor into the total cost vs. grid power?

                      My electric bill runs about $70 or so each month. Zero maintenance. A solar system would need to be no more expensive than that – and no more hassle than that – for it to make sense for me. I see no such system available – or on the horizon.

                    • Interferer.. you do NOT understand the full situation here. Typical easy pracitcal solution EXCEPT FOR……..

                      For one thing, where I live this time of year we have very little sunshine… at 48N in December we have full dark from about 5 PM till 8 AM. The sun is VERY low to the south from October into May. The weather is overcast, cloudy, rainy, fog tonight and was thick until near noon today.

                      I’d have to invest in a HUGE battery backup bank to have any power overnight and often for a few days until the sun comes round for a whie to remind us it still exists. Natural gas is not, nor will be, available here for at least another twenty years.

                      What kind of investment would I have to make in dollars and time to save even two thirds of my electric bill, now three times what it was seven years ago, for the exact same KwHr/Month usage I’ve had for the past thirty years? How many thousands to spend to “save” forty bux a month, the price increase inflicted on us who did NOT approve nor ask for all these stupid new “renewable” power sources? Get real, man….. I know how to set numbers on a page in plus and minus columns….. if I were not heating entirely with wood which I scrounge for nothing, I’d be down at the Sally Ann looking for a halfway warm place to sleep at night. And you expect me to spend several thousand on a solar system?
                      Most effective way I could spend money to reap signficant savings would be to drop a propane tank here and find used propane water heater and kitchen range.. Or a wood burning cookstove. Will solar operate my commercial five horse two stage air compressor, or my 220V 350 amp welder? I’d need one whale of a power invertor to run that big 220 V compressor, and/or the big wirefeed welder. Not to mention the 220 V 12 inch table saw, two horse drill press, and the lathe and milling machine I need to get. And how’s about the four horsepower well pump for the 115 foot deepwell? How many solar cells and how big a backup battery/invertor will it take to run THAT, w\ithout which I have no water here? And city water/sewer here are at least twenty years away, by which time I hope to have left for a less develloped/crammed area

                      See what a problem we
                      d have if government continue to mandate all manner of junk that won’t work for everyone, but they don’t know./care and tray to cram everyone into one mould? Whatever happened to the idea that we none of us need/want someone else telling us how we should live? THAT was the key issue that launched that little war with the Brits some 240 years back. In some ways, that one was far easier than what seems to be shaping up here and now: then, the imposers/tyrants were from somewhere else, and not part of us. Now they are here, and often difficult to tell who is for and who against in ths battle between the perpetual children of the Peter Pan world, and responsible mature folks who can manage their own lives quite nicely, thanks ever so much……

                    • At $5000 for a system, it will take me ten years five months to realise the breakeven, and that does NOT include the lost opportunity cost for the funds invested, nor a penny for my time to install. Further, that $5K system will almost certainly NOT meet my peak energy demands… as when the well pump kicks on, or I need the 12 inch saw, big wirefeed welder, five horse industrial air compressor……. and since the proper size DC to AC invertor I’d likely need costs another $2500, put payback day out another three years….. from what I’ve seen, that’s beyond the typical life expectancy of solar panels. The storage battery bank to last three to five days in winter with no signficant power generation will set me back another $4 to 5 K, putting payback out well above twenty years, with no real breakeven point because payback time is longer than normal service life of the goods purchased.

                      And that does not even MENTION enough power to run an electric car, no matter how tiny and useless. There IS no electric vehicle on the market to replace my one tonne van with trailer towing capacity of eight tonnes……. and hauling inside of two and a half more. I’ve run that beatst down the road scaling at 26,750 Lbs, per government run scale. And I’ve run that combination up from California…… Not gonna happen on full electric and power. And propane/CNG are tooo gutless to poewr that huge mess up and over the mountain passesv

          • Which means there is a lot of energy in the hydrogen that you get back when you use it.

            What matters most is the efficiency of the entire system. From what I understand, the costs of compressing hydrogen and transport make it only about 20% efficient. Vs. 80% for electric.

    • You’ve got it backwards.

      In petrochemistry, petroleum geology and organic chemistry, cracking is the process whereby complex organic molecules such as kerogens or long-chain hydrocarbons are broken down into simpler molecules such as light hydrocarbons, by the breaking of carbon-carbon bonds in the precursors.

  14. Hi Eric.
    You are very correct about CNG powered cars with a few details. I own a dual fuel vehicle–a Ford Expedition that can switch from propane to gasoline with the flick of a switch. Propane is very similar to CNG (methane is CH4; propane is C3H8) except for its compression. Propane is not under near the pressure that CNG is. That said, in a dual fuel vehicle like mine, propane gets less miles per gallon than gasoline. The truck gets 15 mpg on gasoline and on propane it gets around 10. I do not see this as a “deal killer” if the price of CNG is far cheaper than gasoline. However, the price of CNG would have to be at least half the price of gasoline to make it viable on the market. Same with propane. Currently, propane is about the same price as gasoline which means I hardly ever use it.
    Propane might be a bit easier to convert a vehicle to since propane refueling stations are already abundant. You can refuel a propane vehicle anyplace that is capable of refilling a portable propane tank. Here in Phoenix, that’s about 1/3 of the gas stations.
    The fueling process is a bit more complex, a lot more dangerous, and takes longer than refueling a car. I say a lot more dangerous because if you do not have the connections tight (which can be tricky) you will get raw propane leaking out from the connection between the fill hose and the tank.
    You have to wear gloves when refueling too, because propane will instantly freeze anything it comes into contact with. You can easily get a severe “freezer burn” if you are not careful.
    All propane stores have trained people to fill the tanks, and I have only seen two self serve propane pumps in all of Phoenix. In order to use them, you have to insert a special key that the propane company gives to everyone who wants to use the propane self fuel kiosks, after they are satisfied you can fill a vehicle without risk. If you can’t fuel the car yourself, it means you have to wait for the guy to come out from the store to fill your vehicle. Since most gas stations are no longer “full service”, this means dragging a cashier outside. Which entails a long wait. That would change as propane (or CNG) became more popular as an auto fuel. But until then, count on about triple the length of time to fill up your car as compared to filling with gas.
    The other difficulty with propane or CNG systems is finding someone to work on the fuel system should you have a problem. A small leak in a gasoline line isn’t much of an issue with a car, can be easily repaired by almost any mechanic. Not so a CNG line. Even a small leak in a fuel line will rapidly drain your fuel tank, and in the process create a huge fire hazard as the gas leaks out. And most mechanics shy away from repairing them because they have not been trained in their repair. I know of only one company that repairs propane or CNG systems here in Phoenix–sixth largest city in the USA.

    • All the CxH2x+2 hydrocarbons can produce energy but compressed gas storage such as CNG is not dense. Best is a liquid which evaporates:
      – Methane or natural gas (CH4) is sold as CNG (compressed but still gas) because it is pretty hard to liquify into LNG.
      – Ethane (C2H6) for some reason is not widely available, but it would work.
      – Propane (C3H8) is stored and sold in it liquid form. Works OK.
      – Butane (C4H10) also but it does not turn to gas by itself when it is cold. Thus, it is mostly used inside homes.
      Above that, I guess you need to mix liquid with air, like with typical fuel.

  15. Heck, they make small home compressors now that are getting reasonable. You can do it off your home natural gas system and avoid the coming federal fuel taxes.

  16. Government is already involved. The cost of the parts to convert to CNG are relatively expensive. The licensing to perform the conversion is expensive and if you are trying to do this commercially, you have to have a different expensive license for every different engine and vehicle that you are doing the conversion for. If you can do it yourself, it is very reasonable.

    • Hi Doc,

      I recently (about two years ago) ran gas lines (for heat) in my house, to give me a break from cutting four cords of wood every year! It wasn’t hard, technically. I think anyone who is middling bright and has basic aptitude, can follow instructions carefully and is patient and exercises due caution, etc. – could plumb this system up. And once plumbed up, I don’t think it would be a huge big deal to add a “spigot” – so to speak – in the garage.

      But the broader point is that none of this stuff is necessary. But the fact that CNG – a better alternative – isn’t being pushed while hugely impractical/expensive EVs are – says a great deal about the real agenda…

      • whatsoever our(your) best arguments for perfect alternatives and best possible solutions the PTB(Power that be on Earth) has decided : EV! Whatsoever .
        That’s any Power always does !
        We are all designated victims !

        • Hi Alexandru,

          Yes, unfortunately – and it pains me that so many people do not see that it’s not about EVs, per se. It is about restricting/controlling our mobility.

          EVs are just the means by which this will be achieved.

        • Ever since the days of John D Rockefeller and Teddy Roosevelt and his “Progressive” cause going back and forth about his Standard Oil “Monopoly”, governments and “interested parties” have sought to gain and monopolize sources of energy, especially petroleum and natural gas(es). Today, as Eric points out, once the notion that fossil fuels were imminently running out was proved a fable, the mantra became “Global Warming” or “Save the ‘Oith’ (Bugs Bunny pronunciation) or whatever manner of nitwittery to appeal to the Boobsie and those “thinking themselves ‘wise’…” (Romans 1:22).

          Sure, any notions of PERSONAL energy independence will be at best enjoyed by a very small group of outliers, whom will be regarded as eccentrics and IGNORED. Which is probably the best outcome..for them. Just imagine if someone of even modest fame were able to secure enough property to sustain himself and his family, with crops, livestock, equipment, etc, and either funds or other fungible wealth on hand to deal with come what may. How long will such an idyllic existence last? About as long as some crusading bitch in the applicable state’s (In)”Justice” Department will conjure up phony allegations of spousal and/or child abuse, or drug dealing, or “Terrorism”, or plotting to poison the Easter Bunny! Then, if numerous lawsuits and summonses don’t convince the purported “Freedom Scofflaw” to see the “error of his ways”, a gang of armored, badged, costumed “heroes” is assembled, to deliver the “Hut! Hut! Hut!” routine, with the dictum…”Alive…IF possible! Dead? Just as good…”

      • The issue with CNG is the machine to compress the gas. Residential service isn’t really that great for it. It can be done and yes plumbing to said equipment should be no different than plumbing up a gas clothes dryer.

  17. CNG cars have short range despite huge tanks eating up the trunk.
    I think liquid fuel still has a future in transportation due to its sheer energy density. Assuming we run out of oil, there are many ways to produce liquid fuel from gas (GTL) or from coal (CTL).
    BTW, cars used to run with wood gas generators during WWII in Europe. So don’t worry, human ingenuity will find a way to replace oil.

    • Hi KGW,

      They have a relatively short range – but it’s a small issue because they can be refueled quickly, unlike EVs.

      But, the larger point is none of this is necessary.

      Gas is abundant and so cheap; IC cars are very clean – and “climate change” is a con designed to combat those facts.

        • Hi Anonymous,

          Yes, agreed – but my purpose was to point out the fact that much better alternatives to electric cars are available – assuming those alternatives were needed!

          • You are absolutely correct ( and you are honest idealist) but nobody in the governments appreciate such things, because they are huge dimploma’s holders illiterates .

      • What would be the practicality, if one’s home, already plumbed for natural gas, had a means to compress the gas and deliver it into a CNG vehicle? It’d have to be relatively cheap, SAFE, and reliable, but the ability to refuel nightly in one’s own garage would, the same as having a recharge station or outlet for the ballyhooed EVs would be a boon!

        The main obstacle I would see is that if this practice became widespread, governments at all levels would see road fuel taxes dry up, and the PTB and the “Gubmint” class won’t sit still for that!

          • Hi Paul,

            Back in the dreamy ’90s – when America was still a mostly free country – I test drove a number of dual-fuel GM and Ford cars. You could switch between gasoline and CNG, which eliminated any worries about finding CNG in a hurry.

            These vehicles have, of course, been memory holed.

  18. Nuclear power stations cracking water for hydrogen fuel cells makes a shitload more sense. but, FCEVs don’t work too well at below 10F.

      • Not a problem. The political terrorists are planning to “relocate” everyone to cities in warmer climates. Problem solved 🙂

        Also, batteries don’t work well below 10F.

      • My gasoline powered car starts in -37F (been there, done that) with 0w40 oil in the sump. The car bitches like an ugly, bratty, and useless Feminist parasite for the first minute but works perfectly after that. I also get 600 miles on a 3 minute charge!

  19. Eric, There are trillions of cubic meters of Methane in the Arctic…and most likely *Trillions* of barrels of crude…most likely the light sweet variety.

    • Hi Camp,

      Yup. That’s the problem, you see. A huge supply of inexpensive fuel; clean-burning cars. Enter “climate change.” It’s the solution to this great tragedy…

  20. If I get my hands on another Olds 88, or better yet, an Olds 98, or Chrysler Imperial, I’m putting in a CNG hookup…no doubt.

  21. It ought to be really amusing to hear some EPA shill try to come up with a convincing set of reasons why CNG is a danger and should be banned or severely restricted in its production and availability. Trust me, the EPA WILL do just that once us mundanes start relying on it as a source of affordable fuel.

  22. Eric,

    To combat air pollution in Lima, CNG is widely available down there; you can refuel at most gas stations down there. It’s simple and quick. You hook up a quick disconnect hose (similar to what you’d use for your air tools), refuel, and go. It’s just as quick as refueling with gasoline.

    MarkyMark

  23. Excellent points Eric. You inspired me to do some research. In my search, I saw a result from a trustworthy source. A place where you always go for real news, truthful reporting, and wholesome material, Forbes. Their preview says: “Natural gas vehicles are saddled by a number of drawbacks.. They get worse mileage than regular gas cars. Reviewers in general say they are relatively uninspiring to drive.”

    Well, that’s all the convincing I need. Uninspiring to drive. Because when I get into a vehicle, I want to be inspired.

    If THEY are taking a position against CNG, obviously it is good. THEM being against something is the strongest evidence conceivable that I should be for it. And vice versa.

    • A Prius is pretty uninspiring to drive too. But if you do your inflated eco-ego will more than make up for the shortfall in inspiration.

    • One of the student SAE projects when I was in college was CNG conversion. Later we made it dual fuel. Gasoline or CNG. I think the way we had it wasn’t entirely a flip of a switch but there’s no reason it couldn’t be except we didn’t have money to do it. Anyhow the truck was the same to drive regardless of what fuel the Chevy V8 was consuming. I guess a 1990 (or was it an ’89?) Chevy pickup wouldn’t be inspiring to drive any way it was sliced.

      I have no idea how you calculate “mileage” as we know it with a CNG vehicle. It can only be done at dollars to go X distance or fuel energy to go X distance and then comparing. Natural gas is so cheap that the only reason it could possibly cost more is because of not being able to amortize infrastructure costs for the fueling stations over enough users.

    • Take a marginal small engine powered car, convert to CNG, and of course it will be lukewarm in perofrmance, laws of physics and thermodynamics supporting the petrol powered version with a reasnable quantity of spunk. BUT, because of the smaller less carbon dense molecule, CNG and propane cannot provide the former “snoose” found them petrolfueled.

      HOWEVER< because ot the clean burning, lower price (even price per therm) and insanely extended engine life (NO carbon buildup to soil the lube oil, form hard carbon to play sandpaper on the engine's scraping parts, engined powered by light fuels run forever. Or nearly enough.

      Ten years back I was set on finding a Ford E 350 widow van with Powerstroke. Hoo buy. Two weeks on the net, turned up fewer than a dozen worth looking at. What I DID find, though, were a fair number of CNG/Propane fueled E 350's in the airport coach or hotel shuttle service. These were on offer for half the money of the diesel fueld vans. Finally found the diesel van I drive today…. and am so glad I did. I've put 225K on it and done almost nothing to it. LOADS of power, or very economic cruise.

      Now I find the trash trucks in our area are CNG fueled… not quite sure the method but the big trucks have engines that still SOUND like a diesel. Direct injection of the liquid petroleum fuel? They haev huge letters on their hoppers bragging "I'm a clean burning CNG fueled vehicle". they seem to work fine…. At present the bigggest downside to CNG and LPG fuels (more so with the former) is the relative scarcity of fueling sttions "out there" Based at home, find the fuel sttions. Or, as I considered when examing a iece of commercial property, which needed natural gas supplied to the building before I coud use it, would be to spend a few grand and buy my own compressor and refuel right at my place. fine for local use. As CNG refuel stations increase in number the market will autocorrect. And I'll leave that wretched pun lying right there on the floor.

    • HAH! RK, thanks for the inspiring comment.

      Brent and Tionico, you guys make great points. I went to look up some CNG acceleration videos and the vehicles sound exactly the same as gasoline. The forbes preview seemed a limp, tripe attempt to do what they were paid to do, come up with an anti-CNG article. Designed for their “on-the-go” mobile reader, who doesn’t have time to deeply research (or fact-check) a topic, and wants easy, digestible argument points, regardless of their validity or truth. I cannot imagine being an NPC who goes to a site like Forbes for new Fake material to consume and digest. I can imagine the educated, white collar, 30-something city-dweller, waiting in the subway, with a bit of time to catch up on the “news”. So they open their forbes app on their leased iPhone Xs, and glance at a headline by Forbes. Their internal “thoughts” computing a conclusion something like “Oh, I guess CNG cars are bad.”

  24. One of the major concrete companies in Chicago (Ozinga) is converting its entire fleet to CNG (complete in 2020). Mixers all the way down to their pickups, vans and even their salespeople’s cars. They fuel in their own yards (22 bay station in the local yard, two bays are even open to public sales). They are claiming 70% savings over diesel! Yes 70%.

    It seems to have worked out well enough for them that they started a side business doing conversions for other companies.

    • CNG has been effective for a couple decades for companies that have a fleet of vehicles, especially big fixed trucks, garbage, concrete. So long as the fueling infrastructure can be amortized over enough vehicles it works.

      • I’m waiting for da gummit to awaken as to HOW they can tax such vehicles, which do not, at present, fuel through the ssytem of tax extractors now reigning supreme over petrol and diesel.

        Once they figure that bit out, the 70% savings over diesel will drop to maybe 30%, but that is still enough to warrant switching a fleet.

        I’ve known folks to have a propane powered rig and refuel it with a “wet hose” from their large on site propane tank. fuel tax ? zero. Heh heh heh. Meanwhile, whenever I fill up MY van I pau about twenty dollars in state and federal taxes. Grrrr……

      • Works well for school bus companies. The manufacturers are pushing nat-gas and a lot of the usually large fleets are slowly changing over as the older diesel busses are retired. They tried this in the ’70’s, but it didn’t quite catch on. They had some “power” problems and range issues that have been solved in the decades since.

        You’ll probably see a lot of large fleets going over to nat-gas in the coming years, but the fuelling infrastructure is lagging which makes it almost impossible to introduce to the general public.

        Lastly, I wouldn’t trust most people to be able to properly fuel a vehicle – which is a MAJOR issue, unless we go to back to “full-service” (which would be welcome in my books).

  25. A company I worked for in the early 1970s had a CNG Impala in its fleet.

    I drove it a few times, but only locally. You really couldn’t tell any difference except for all the decals all over it. I have no idea about the re-fueling as all the cars were turned into the company garage in the evening and checked out in the morning, so I don’t recall ever having to re-fuel anything.

    I’m not sure why it didn’t catch on back then during the Arab oil embargo? The company I worked for was – surprise! – a natural gas production and distribution enterprise.

  26. Apache Oil has a CNG fuel pump in their parking garage for their employees in Houston. I live 6 miles from 2 CNG pumps here in Southwest Houston. Houston actually has quite a few CNG pumps around town as well.

  27. Eric, back in the 70s we lived in Anchorage Alaska and because of the massive amounts of natural gas available (they were compressing it and shipping it to Japan at the time ) they converted all govt. vehicles to run on the stuff. Make that local govt. vehicles and so far as I know it was cheaper and trouble free. The current morons in charge could learn from that! Rick Taylor

  28. Natural gas is the backup fuel for renewables when the renewable sources aren’t producing. This actually is a big problem in the Northeastern US because the natural gas infrastructure is maxed out providing heating fuel when there’s a cold spell. The independent system operators (ISO), who manage the power grid require gas turbines to keep fuel oil on site if their plant is capable of using it just in case there’s a sag in supply. This should create an opportunity for new gas pipelines (and new production) but with most of western New York -which happens to be sitting on top of some of the largest gas reserves in the world- off limits thanks to NIMBYism, and stupidity spread by ecoterrorists like the producers of the mockumentary Gasland, there will be shortages and unrealized production. Not to mention the nuclear plants that run 98%+ of the time no matter the weather are under constant pressure to be shut down, but that’s another topic.

    I live about 300 feet from a producing gas well. My neighbors protested the pad going into production (it was mapped out when the development was planned in the 1970s) but even during the peak of drilling last summer it wasn’t anything I’d notice aside from occasional fart smell on calm winded mornings. The company doing the work had very strict rules to follow, the town made them install pipelines for transporting fracking fluids, and the state set up these mobile spectrometers to constantly sample the air. Now that drilling is complete, all that remains are pipes coming out of the ground and the town gets a check from Exxon Mobil. We’re getting sidewalks, have very nice school buildings and well-maintained green spaces and parks with no increase in taxes. And the companies are still able to make money even with the glut of gas.

    We seem to have reached a tipping point in the nation’s infrastructure. Everything we have is (sorta) paid for, and thanks to efficiency gains by the end user, there’s no reason for expansion of capacity. When was the last time you saw a new gas station go in? Or upgraded pipelines? We are seeing new renewable (and gas turbine) electrical projects, but that is offset by taking old coal plants offline. Very little net gain. Just playing around with the gingerbread, really. It’s all in balance. So introduce any wholesale change, like electric or CNG vehicles, and now that infrastructure goes out of kilter. Apparently the power grid is overbuilt enough to be better able to absorb the added load, although we really haven’t seen any real uptake of electric vehicles either. I doubt the natural gas infrastructure is up to the task of supplying heating and transport fuels at any scale.

    So aside from the extremely small contribution of renewables and very large amount of coal and nuclear power, the electric car is pretty much already a CNG car, but with overly complicated extra steps. As coal fired electric plants are retired this will only increase.

    Or maybe it’s just because no one can figure out if the price on the CNG pump is a good deal or not…

  29. Russians have been using LP and CNG cars and trucks for decades, it’s just their lawless driving that kills them, not their choice of fuel type. In the mid-late 90’s nearly all the cabs in Denver were Factory Equipped LPG Chevrolets, and even VPI here in Bleaks-Burg had S-10s, Cavaliers, and a host of other LPG fleet vehicles. Snag a tank of LP ANYWHERE and you can hook up and go indefinitely. I haven’t seen a rash of b-becue grill explosions, anyone? Since, well, forever, travel trailers AND mobile homes have used LP. The feudal overlords here just don’t want us having viable, affordable, independent transportation, or personal independence at all, for that matter. Doesn’t mean we have to lie down and take it up the butt either. I’d love to rant more, but I actually have cars to service today, real ones, lol!

    • It’s actually safer than gasoline. If the tank is ruptured the gas will quickly dissipate. Gasoline will lay on the ground for a time giving off vapors.

    • Autogas pumps are sprouting up in Michigan. 300,00 people heat their homes here, more than any other state, so there is a solid infrastructure. The main problem with LPG is the prices can swing wildly some winters. A few years ago it made it up to 4.50/gal. It’s a by-product of natural gas processing and gas refining so supply is relatively inelastic. But LP has over twice the BTU’s per cubic foot

    • I must have driven taxi for two years in a different Denver than you are taking about, because I spent many hours waiting in the Ground Transportation holding lot at DIA and never saw anything but gasoline burners.

LEAVE A REPLY