Compressed Natural Gas as an Alternative Fuel for Vehicles Fleets Makes Sense: Low Cost Creates Untapped Demand that U.S. Suppliers Can Fill Today (3 Parts)
Part 3 of a 3 Part Series
Light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles can be converted to natural gas using proven 4th generation technology. Only one factory-ready sedan is sold – the Honda Civic GX – so vehicles have to be retrofitted for CNG fuel. As in any emerging technology, first generation systems needed improvement and not all 3rd party installers were created equal. Early issues facing CNG fleet managers concerned durability, reliability, cold starting and performance. But newer systems have addressed them.
With the market wide open for use of compressed natural gas (CNG) as a fuel for vehicles, the main constraint hampering expansion is the availability of refueling stations due to their high up-front capital cost. CNG stations cost about $400 thousand each for small CNG time-fill stations generating less than 6,000 dge per month and $800 thousand each for mid size, stations generating less than 20,000 dge per month to $1.5 million each for large stations generating up to than 20,000 dge per month and $2.5 million each for high capacity stations generating up to 80,000 dge per month. This impediment can be overcome on the short-term basis by expanding the conversion of vehicles to CNG and cost sharing between local fleet owners. Long-term, expanded use into the public sector, improved reliability of key systems and innovative compressor designs can help to reduce station costs.
The compass points towards a tremendous opportunity for broad market adoption of natural as a vehicular fuel. Today, natural gas can rescue our bleeding budgets and bulging trade deficits. No technological advances are needed, only enlightenment. It just requires what Lee Iacocca pleads for in his latest book, Where Have All the Leaders Gone? — the leadership, courage and common sense to move forward.