Reader Question: CNG Pros – and Cons?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Tony asks: Is a natural gas dedicated or natural gas/gasoline car if bought at good price and have gas line at residence a good option?  Is there a fuel savings? Is it worth extra maintenance?

My reply: This is one of those “your mileage may vary” situations. CNG costs less than gasoline, but it’s less energy dense – so you don’t go as far on a gallon equivalent. It burns exceptionally cleanly – so clean that certain maintenance intervals for such things as oil changes can be extended, saving you money that way. CNG vehicles also last longer – or rather, their engines do.

But a CNG (usually, flex-fuel – meaning it can burn both CNG and gasoline) vehicle will usually cost you more to buy – and refueling it isn’t as easy or convenient as gassing up – although the dual-fuel capability makes this much less of a problem than, for example, an electric car’s comparatively short range and lengthy recharge times. If the CNG tank runs low and you aren’t near a CNG refueling facility, you can can just switch over to gas and keep on driving – which is a huge benefit.

So, I think your decision comes down to weighing these variables – with perhaps the biggest variable being the price you pay for the CNG-powered vehicle itself. If – as an example – you were able to pick one up used for say 80 percent what it cost new, then you’ve more than amortized the higher initial cost (by letting the original purchaser pay the premium for the CNG equipment) and the car will almost certainly save you a good bit of money on both fuel and maintenance costs.

It may also be a question of convenience – which is another facet of saving money, when you stop to think about it. Let’s say you live close by a CNG refueling facility and can easily refuel and so run CNG pretty much continuously without having to make inconvenient detours to refuel. Or, you are able to rig up a refueling system at home.

That – to me – would be really cool. Far more so than dealing with the EV idiocy!

. . .

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

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