Not flex fuel – dual fuel.  Flex fuel is a system that can use similar fuels in the same system such as pure gasoline to 85% ethanol.  Dual fuel will use two differ fuels that will feed two systems.  Sounds expensive, but natural gas at such low prices is driving a market.

Natural gas prices range from $1.49 to $2.59 in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.  This is far less than gasoline.

Honda builds a Civic Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) sedan and has been selling a few of these natural gas vehicles in select markets for years.

At $4.00 gasoline the natural gas equivalent is running $2.50 in the higher priced markets.  That was back in May of 2011 when Mark Koebrich at Denver’s 9NEWS interviewed David Padgett, a Honda CNG owner.

Padgett said, “It’s costing me one-third of the cost of commuting with gasoline as it does to commute with natural gas. I wouldn’t drive anything else. If I was buying gasoline, it would have cost me over $30 to fill up this car. The actual cost of the natural gas was about $12, and if I do it in my garage, it’s going to be about $4.”

Another lure is you can install a natural gas hook-up at home in the garage from your utility gas line. You pull the hose from the wall and refuel at home for a fraction of the commercial station price. It’s almost that simple.

Padgett concludes, “You’ll burn natural gas when you can, and if you need to back it up with gasoline, it’s there for you as well. Same engine – no difference.”

Ford Super Duty Available with Compressed Natural Gas Fueling

The catch is one needs two fuel tanks.  Not something you add on at home.  But the manufacturers are catching on.  Ford’s CNG trucks have been available since 2009. Dual-fuel sedans are expected to follow in the 2013 model year. GM is offering two pickup models and a dual-fuel Ram Heavy Duty truck production model of the Dodge Ram has a load-bearing compressed natural gas tank immediately behind the cab with the normal gas tank in the usual place.

That’s the US Big Three Automakers plus Honda.  OK – two cars builders and three pickup truck makers is a major start.

But the big opportunity is application to large trucks.  Trucks have the room and the capacity to carry two fuel loads.  Various plans are popping up to line the interstate system with CNG filling stations. For diesels adding CNG injection is more complex, but the fuel cost savings would quickly recover the investment when a truck is traveling over one hundred thousand miles a year.

Once a part or combination of the plans gets underway the rest of use could seriously look for natural gas duel fuel vehicles.  With some careful planning a home served with natural gas may justify the piping and compressing for home filing.

Many pundits believe CNG technology will catch on over the next few years, just as hybrids are beginning to now. Toyota Motor Sales more than doubled hybrid sales in April (compared to last year), on the heels of over 50,000 hybrids of all makes selling in March.

There is less doubt about the supply of natural gas than the gasoline and diesel supply and assuming the government stays out of the way that should last for years, perhaps decades. If the methane hydrates supply of natural gas can be tapped cheaply the supply would last tens of centuries.

The flex fuel option has been a smart choice for years, hybrids the cost conscious choice more recently and CNG looks to be the next big thing.

On the other hand, pretty soon ‘dual fuel’ might be redundant – just make CNG cars and call it done could come pretty quickly with a price advantage driving the switch.


Comments

9 Comments so far

  1. Al Fin on May 9, 2012 6:26 AM

    CNG vehicular fuel cost savings can bring back the urban SUV and full size pickup truck commuter.

    The fuel tanks are big and the range is lousy but for short distance driving the cost savings can eventually pay for the extra setup expense and inconvenience. Until the cost of natural gas goes up in response to the many increased uses for NG.

    I wouldn’t want to be around a full CNG tank rupture in the presence of heat or spark, though. CNG is a gas, and fuel in the gaseous state explodes as opposed to liquid fuel that only burns, albeit violently in the case of gasoline.

  2. Tusky on May 9, 2012 7:55 AM

    Uh oh! Filling up the tank at home, are we? State & Fed gov will prohibit that pretty quickly. Why? Because they can’t put a gasoline tax on it. And if they can’t put a tax on fuel, they won’t have the money to keep the roads in repair. You’ll note that people that use privately use bio-diesel have gotten in deep doo-doo as tax evaders…the very same issue.

    Tusky

  3. Matt Musson on May 9, 2012 9:17 AM

    The single biggest advantage is that you would be protected for interruptions in gasoline supplies. If worse comes to worse – you go down to Home Depot and get a Blue Rhino tank.

  4. Benjamin Cole on May 9, 2012 2:02 PM

    Matt-

    That’s LPG from the Blue Rhino tank. Lots of LPG vehicles on the road in Thailand.

    As for ruptures—gas tends to float up (into the air) while gasoline flows down around you and your feet and your smashed up car.

  5. PA Natural Gas on May 9, 2012 4:09 PM

    Natural gas vehicles are definitely important to consider – but we will need to build lots of CNG stations to make it a viable option!

  6. Duel Fuel Vehicles that can Run on Gasoline or Natural Gas | RefineryNews.com on May 14, 2012 8:39 AM

    […] Source: Get Ready For Dual Fuel Vehicles […]

  7. The Week in EVs and More | Earth's Energy on May 14, 2012 11:29 PM

    […] Energy and Fuel warns us to get ready for duel-fuel vehicles. Duel fuel is not flex fuel. Flex fuel is a system that can use similar fuels in the same system […]

  8. Tom on December 31, 2012 5:33 PM

    #1 CNG is much safer than gasoline in a crash, multiple tests have shown this to be true, the CNG tanks are extremely tough, and have multiple pressure release features to release gas in the event of a violent accident, and CNG by itself won’t burn, you need oxygen, a person could fire a bullet into a CNG tank and all that would happen is the gas would escape out the hole. Gasoline is a liquid but it produces vapors that are heavier than air, and are mixed with air containing oxygen, a deadly combo.
    #2 The thing limiting CNG adoption is not so much the stations as the government it’s self with regulations requiring every single engine and auto/truck combo the be certified seperatly at over $350,000 per instance, this then has to be amortized over the conversion company’s expected sales volume, presenting kits so expensive that it defeats and wipes out the cost savings. What should cost $4000 costs $16,000 to $20,000 making the ROI not realistic.

  9. Ira Dorfman on March 2, 2013 11:12 AM

    Matt – you need to update your article. The greatest opportunity for dual fuel is with EPA-approved conversion systems for Class 8 tractor trailers. There is no chicken and egg with this opportunity — systems are available today for many of the 6 million+ tractors that are on the road today. The EcoDual system (one of several companies with EPA approval) is currently focused on the Cummins ISX 15L engine that represents 31% of the Class 8 market. ROI for this system is 12-15 months. Focusing on heavy trucks makes the most sense in terms of cost effectiveness, petroleum displacement and emissions benefits.

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