Public transportation across the United States has been utilizing alternative fuel vehicles for decades, employing buses that run on either compressed natural gas (CNG) or a liquefied natural gas (LNG) to alleviate the burden of high fuel emissions from conventional gasoline and diesel vehicles. And according to the industry group NGV Global, there are more than 16.7 million natural-gas vehicles on the road worldwide at the end of 2012. In the United States however, using natural gas cars has been slow to catch on. Natural gas vehicles (NGVs) are, for one thing, still much pricier than gasoline powered vehicles, or even hybrids. But when taking into account the many benefits they offer for both drivers and the environment, an interest in NGVs in one we can all afford to develop.
Like any alternative method, it’s wise to take some considerations into account before implementing CNG or LNG into your fueling routine. But for the average motorist, there are many good reasons to make the switch.
- Safety: It comes as a surprise to some to learn that natural gas cars are found to be safer than those that run on diesel or gasoline. This is because not only do the physical properties of natural gas make it safer (less flammable) but it is lighter than air, and if it were to leak it would simply rise into the atmosphere and disperse. It is also odorless and non-toxic. The fuel tank which contains the gas is also made of steel up to a half-inch thick and coated in protective fiberglass. Newer tanks can even be made of polymers that exceed the strength of steel. The massive car recalls imposed by both GM and Ford this year alone make the safety of an NGV appealing.
- Environmentalism: Natural gas, the cleanest fossil fuel, produces the fewest emissions of all internal combustion vehicles. The pollutants found in natural gas are also significantly fewer than those found in gasoline. In most cases, using natural gas results in less carbon dioxide, (the primary greenhouse gas), sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and small (but harmful) particulate matter. Using natural gas assists with a host of environmental concerns, such as CO2 emissions, smog, and acid rain. Transportation is the largest single source of air pollution in the United States.
- Life in the Fast Lane: NGV drivers are allowed to drive in the express or carpool lanes on many highways.
- Domestic: Natural gas is found in plentiful amounts right here in the United States, reducing the supply chain needed to bring drivers their fuel. By utilizing an abundant form of energy found right here at home we can save untold amounts on transport alone. Unlike oil, which is typically imported, approximately 99 percent of the United States’ natural gas supply is found here in North America.
Even if the environment is out of the realm of your interests, and you’re content with the performance of your current vehicle, alternative fuels are also an attractive option due to the rising costs of typical gasoline. CNG costs less than gasoline, and is also a clean-burning fuel which results in less engine wear and fewer oil changes. Certain states offer tax credits for purchasing an NGV, and NGV owners are also potentially eligible for state and local tax benefits. Many websites such as this resource help consumers explore their options, whether they choose to convert their vehicles to run on natural gas or decide to purchase a new one off the lot.
Not everyone agrees that natural gas is the best choice for motorists. There are some serious limitations for those interested in making the commitment to an NGV. For one thing, they are manufactured by fewer automobile companies, and are typically more expensive. There is also a limited number of fueling stations where one may go to refuel the vehicle when needed. Most are located only in largest metropolitan areas. The “fracking” process through which natural gas is often extracted from the ground also has many Americans concerned.
Of course, the rising interest in these vehicles raises many questions. Should the government effectively try to “sell” these vehicles to its citizenry? And does it make sense to choose one type of alternative vehicle – NGVs, say, over hybrids or plug-ins? Some have argued that it might be easier to use our natural gas resources to power electric cars rather than create an entirely new fueling system. But seeing natural gas technology flourish in places like Iran, Pakistan, Brazil and Argentina gives us hope that this alternative fuel might soon be able to reduce our dependency on oil, improve the air we breathe, and make our impact on the planet less destructive.
This article was originally submitted to Soshitech.com from Kate Voss.