Reader Question: CNG Alternatives?

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

Charles asks: In 2007 I bought my third Jeep; I have two CJ5s and an Unlimited in 2007… close to 1 million miles accrued on them. My son owns natural gas land. In 2007 I wrote you to find a facility to convert the new Jeep at a “reasonable cost.” I did find a “gov’t approved” conversion station which quoted 6 to 9 months and 25k. I kept looking and have come up with nothing. Any suggestions? Stupid gov’t.

My reply: The conversion isn’t necessarily difficult or expensive – if the underlying vehicle (engine) isn’t complex. I converted my generator to operate dual fuel, gasoline and propane. Easy – and cheap. But its carbureted engine is very simple.

It was literally a bolt-on conversion that took less than an hour.

It is much more involved to convert a current/recent vehicle’s engine (especially if direct injected) to CNG and may even be technically illegal – considered “tampering” with the factory emissions system, which includes the fuel delivery system. Whether the conversion actually decreases emissions is irrelevant to the bureaucrats. The “modified” vehicle may not pass state smog tests, even though it emits less smog-forming compounds.

My recommendation is to find a vehicle that was built to dual-fuel (gas and CNG) from the factory; Ford and GM and Honda have all offered them. Honda, most recently. The cost will be reasonable, because you’re paying for a car that’s already had the work done; it’s analogous to buying a restored classic car vs. the cost of restoring a classic car.

It is almost always cheaper to buy the already-restored car.

I agree with you, obviously, that CNG is superb fuel – because it’s very inexpensive and very clean and very practical. It is certainly superior to  battery-powered cars – because CNG cars aren’t gimped by short range and lengthy recharge times. Those which are due-fuel can operate the same as any gasoline-only car, with the added capability of switching to CNG at will.

It’s a shame that such viable alternatives are dismissed – while alternatives which are guaranteed to make cars more expensive and much less “mobile” are being crammed down our throats.

. . .

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

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5 COMMENTS

  1. I agree with Eightsouthman re: cng f150/Silverado. Another thought I had was an engine swap with a dual fuel Impala, which is approx same displacement and power. Expensive yes, but it might be in your budget.

    • Hi Anonymous,

      I’ve driven the CNG/gas (dual fuel) Impala; the experience is indistinguishable from driving the gasoline version and – unlike electric cars – there is neither range nor recharge anxiety. The ability to toggle back to gas when the CNG tank runs low eliminates both problems. And CNG tanks – unlike EV battery packs – should last as long as the rest of the car.

      The only functional downside is the size of the CNG tanks, which eat up trunk space. But otherwise, CNG is a much more practical alternative fuel than electricity!

  2. Growing up in west Tx. there were probably one in ten pickups and even some cars that were dual fuel, propane and gasoline. Propane prices got to the point where there was no advantage and now are often more expensive than gasoline.

    A few years ago I noticed a pipeline company that was using CNG vehicles. The drivers said they were fine but you wouldn’t mistake them for a Duramax. At the time, GM was the only car maker that offered CNG light trucks. I looked them up online one day and they were $8-9K more than a standard truck. I guess they really didn’t want to sell any. No telling what hoops the safety cult was making them jump through though. I never knew of anyone having a safety issue with propane. The only problem I knew of, and it was a fairly big one, was GM engines were the only one to have sodium filled valves so burned valves were an issue with Fords and Dodges.

  3. For 40 years Australia had kits to convert dual fuel cars to petrol and LPG. The kits were about $5000 AUD or less, depending on the carburetor or EFI. Maybe he needs to get an Australian kit. though with the local car manufacturing gone, the available supply of motors to be converted is down quite a lot, as mostly the local car makers were using LPG capable engines.

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