Are Natural Gas Vehicles (NGV) Ready for Mainstream?

A natural gas vehicle or NGV is an alternate fuel vehicle that applies contracted natural gas (CNG) or, less normally, liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a clean alternative to other automobile fuels. Worldwide, there are roughly five million NGVs as of 2006, with the largest number of NGVs in Argentina, Brazil, Iran, Pakistan, and Thailand. In Europe they are popular in Germany and Italy.

NGV’s can be refueled anyplace from existing natural gas lines. This makes home fueling stations that exploit into such lines possible. A company called FuelMaker has initiated such a system known as “Phill”, which they have built up in partnership with Honda.

Existing gasoline-powered vehicles may be converted to CNG. An expanding number of vehicles worldwide are being manufactured to run on CNG (Honda Civic, Samand). GM do Brasil introduced the MultiPower engine in August 2004, which was capable of using CNG, alcohol, and petrol as fuel. The GM engine has electronic fuel injection automatically adjusts to any acceptable fuel configuration. This motor was utilized in the Chevrolet Astra and was aimed at the taxi market.

Although a localized problem, NGV refill stations can be scarce in some places, with cabdrivers waiting in long queues to refill. This has led to romptings that taxis should have their own options for refueling at taxi ranks – a model being tested in Casablanca, Morocco. Here, taxi drivers ‘belong’ to a base station where they operate from and have priority fuel rights including an account card.

In the U.S., Clean Energy, a national CNG distributor, is working with various private and public sector clients in developing new facilities making NGV and CNG more readily available throughout the USA.

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