CNG Freedom of Choice

This Holiday Season has been busy.  The CNG Industry continues to move forward Nationwide with installs, trainings and refueling station upgrades.  I look forward to a busy year, be sure and visit my CNG Blog at www.younkincng.com We are now scheduling trainings and installs for this year. I hope you enjoy my latest Article, Jim Younkin

801.427.2284

E Address:younkin@gmail.com

CNG Freedom of Choice

Do we really have a choice when it comes to CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) Conversions? There are those who say our choices are very limited.  I say we do still live in the “Land of the Free”, and we do have the freedom to choose.

Some try to limit our choices by using general statements such as:

All CNG Conversions must be EPA Certified, if not are they illegal.

CNG Conversions that have been “EPA Certified” are always “clean and safe” throughout the life of the vehicle.

“Non EPA Certified” CNG Conversions are unsafe and run dirty.

These broad statements only divide people. We need to find some common ground. One thing that everyone who is involved in the CNG Industry can agree on is that CNG Conversions should be “clean and safe”. The disagreement comes when those in the CNG Industry try to decide how this is to be accomplished.

Two schools of thought have developed.

Let’s call the first group “EPA Hardliners”. They believe that only a select group “EPA certified” system installers are actually capable of producing “clean and safe” and legal CNG Conversions.

Let’s call the second group “Independent Converters”. They believe that “clean and safe” CNG Conversions can and should be available to everyone. These conversions could be installed by individuals and mechanics that are trained in safe installation practices and who test the installation afterward to show that it is “clean and safe”.

For the sake of comparison I will pose a few questions and see how I feel each of these groups would respond.

EPA Hardliners Independent Converters
1. Can I convert my car to CNG?
Yes, but only if you own a new vehicle that is on the list of EPA Certified CNG Conversion Systems and have the $10,000 to $30,000 to pay for it. Yes, there are many Conversion systems readily available; in fact some of the most sophisticated, tunable systems are installed by Independent Converters.
2. Who can convert my car to CNG?
Only shops that employ factory trained mechanics who are certified by the companies who produce the EPA Certified conversion kit that they install. Anyone who has the mechanical ability can do so as long as the installation is tested for safety by a CSA1 (or equivalent) inspector and the system is tested to show it is running clean.
3. Can I get a rebate or tax credit for my conversion?
Yes, there are some rebates and tax credits available which will help offset the high price of our conversions. No. We save you the money up front with the lower cost of conversion since we are not required to go through the expensive EPA Certification process.
4. Will my conversion continue to run safe and clean throughout the life of my car?
Your EPA Certified Conversion is only tested to maintain its tune throughout the “useful life of the vehicle” (usually 100,000 to 120,000 miles). If your system starts running out of tune you will have to return to the factory installers for tuning and inspections since the tuning system is sealed. As long as you continue to have your car checked for safety and emissions periodically. If a problem arises, you can have it tuned and repaired. This tuning and testing can be performed by any competent CNG Mechanic since the tuning programs are readily available to the public.
5. Is there such a thing as an “illegal CNG conversion?”
Yes, all CNG conversions are illegal unless they are EPA Certified. No, all CNG conversions are legal. The EPA has stated that emission components are not to be “tampered” with. This “tampering” includes removing or rendering inoperative emission components. To the best of our knowledge the EPA has never prosecuted or fined an individual for an illegal CNG conversion.
6. Are there any nationally recognized governing organizations that oversee all CNG conversions to guarantee that they are “clean and safe”?
Yes and No. The EPA is mandated to offer a Certification process for CNG conversions. EPA converters must prove that the prototype vehicle meets EPA standards for emissions. EPA certified conversions may initially be tested for emissions. This certification may initially help a vehicle to run clean but the EPA certification process does not test the high pressure system for safety. No. There are many national training organizations that have programs on CNG installation and safety. Each independent CNG installer is responsible to test their installation through independent safety and emissions testing. This can be accomplished using local CSA1 CNG System Inspectors, and by meeting a vehicle’s State emission standards.

Some individuals may choose to install EPA Certified Conversion Systems. These systems do have the added advantage of rebates and tax credits. They may also satisfy the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA)2 and Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPAct)3 while promoting lower emissions and alternative fuel strategies.

Those who choose Independent Converters have more flexibility since modern CNG Conversion systems are available for most cars. These conversions may be done on an individual basis in smaller shops all over the United States. There is now training available for individual mechanics to become competent in installing and testing CNG conversions to be “clean and safe”.

Recently in the state of Utah, Representative Jack Draxler has proposed a Bill (H.B. 0070 2010 Session)4 which will be voted on this year whereby the State of Utah will be able to certify retrofit/aftermarket CNG conversions. This certification will be accomplished using their State Emission testing facilities to verify emissions standards after the conversion and a CSA CNG Tank and Systems Inspection to verify the safety of the high pressure tank and piping.

Jack’s retrofit certification approach (that is based in state law not federal) is a program that could be rolled out nationwide (in those states that already have emission testing programs5 ), thus providing CNG Converters and prospective CNG Vehicle owners more flexibility. At the same time it can ensure “clean and safe” CNG conversions. These Independent Converters could help the CNG industry to begin to flourish.

What a win for our State and Nation. We would be growing the economy in a way that actually creates jobs while using domestic resources. These jobs and conversions could give our struggling economy a much needed shot in the arm.

As we go into 2010, we need to look for ways to work together as a CNG Community. As I stated earlier we all want “clean and safe”  CNG conversions.  I envision CNG install and repair facilities (both EPA Certified and Independent Converters) all over the United States; I see CNG shops helping each through information sharing, parts distribution, training and Certification.  The EPA Hardliners need the added revenue of Aftermarket CNG Conversions; the Aftermarket Conversion shops need parts and tuning information as the “EPA Certified” systems begin to break down.  Conversions should not be viewed as “illegal or legal”,  a CNG Conversion is just like Ford or Chevy, some like Fords and some like Chevy’s. I personally like Volkswagens and Hondas.

Everyone have a Happy and Productive New Year….

(you may have to copy and paste these links)

(1) http://www.csa.ca/cm/ca/en/news/article/cng-fuel-system-inspector-certification-program

(2) http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode42/usc_sec_42_00007582—-000-.html

(3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_Policy_Act_of_1992

(4) http://le.utah.gov/~2010/bills/hbillint/hb0070.htm

(5) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle_inspection_in_the_United_States

Jim Younkin is a mechanic with more than thirty years experience in automotive repair. His passions include car racing, mountain climbing, ice climbing, and CNG conversions. He enjoys sharing his passions and connecting with other of like mind. See more about Jim at http://www.younkincng.com
email: younkin@gmail.com or 801-427-2284

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One Response to CNG Freedom of Choice

  1. Dan O'Neal says:

    Always a good write up Jim.
    Thanks again. In talking to some folks (via e-mail, and forum) in Utah, they are under the impression that all cars in areas of emission testing need EPA certs. Somebody might want to clear up that issue one way or the other.
    As for me.
    I’m still in the Chi-town burbs looking for an affordable kit, and I have no choice here but to home fuel and go dual fuel.
    The reasons are multiple.
    1) Nat Gas is @ $2.19 a gge in illinois (avg), yet over the wisconsin boarder it drops to ~$1.10 or so.
    2) Distance dictates a home fueling setup (when is there going to be a unit on the market again)
    3) I see little in the way of fill stations out from the city. This dictates the need to go dual fuel when traveling any distance.

    We’ve got a long battle ahead.

    Also can someone give me info on kits??? Jim??? Anybody???
    I see little sense to a kit being costly. Especially when I know the costs of setups from outside of this country. It all has to make sense from a cost standpoint, or I cannot justify it.

    Dan O’
    2

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