What’s in Your Car

Soaring Gas Prices Fuel New Interest in Natural Gas Vehicles

by Taylor Kilgore, age 16

    As gas prices rise, the need for alternative sources of energy is a national issue. Many observers say compressed natural gas (CNG) is one important answer. It is a clean-burning fossil fuel that has gained the attention of the automotive industry.
    People are attracted to the image of natural gas, as well as the price comparison at the pump. Honda was, until recently, the only company that made a CNG-powered vehicle, a version of the Civic. In March, General Motors and Chrysler announced they will offer hybrid pick-up trucks that can run on either CNG or gasoline.
    There are about 221,235 Civics on the market, says NGV America, a trade group for natural gas vehicles. Honda has sold 2,000 natural gas vehicles in several states, but the company now offers the car in all 50 states and expects to sell about 4,000 of these vehicles. Overall, there are about 113,000 CNG cars on U.S. roads today.
     Price is an issue; the natural gas Civic costs $26,925 versus $21,275 for the gasoline-only Civic EX.
    Why the sudden interest in compressed natural gas? Although Chrysler’s bi-fuel Ram, a pick-up truck with the ability to run on gasoline or natural gas, will cost about $12,000 more than the gasoline version. It will create “significant cost savings over the life of the truck,” according to industry experts.
    Ed Peper, general manager of GM fleet and commercial operations, adds “Because CNG is a clean-burning, domestically produced fuel, it has wide appeal.”
    There is also a political push for a switch to natural gas vehicles. President Obama promoted natural-gas trucks in his State of The Union Address. In addition, he proposed tax credits for using CNG- fueled vehicles and a $30 million Energy Department research effort.
    Natural gas is an alternative source of energy that many think will be less polluting. Natural gas is being harvested at a greater level to meet the growing market for alternative fuel. It will be interesting to see where CNG modeled vehicles will fit in the broader spectrum of alternative fuels.

[Sources: USA Today; Associated Press]