The fist time I saw CNG filling station was about 10 years ago, at that time CNG was about $.86 a gge (gasoline gallon equivalent). At that time, I thought, that sure is cheap, but since gasoline prices at that time were at $1.43 it wasn’t hurting my budget enough to cause me to look further into CNG.
It wasn’t until early late 2007 and early 2008 with gasoline peaking at $4.10 that many people (including myself) started looking to less expensive alternative fuels for relief especially CNG. At that time and even today there is very little information available about CNG Conversions, even with the internet, there is very little was published about CNG Conversions.
CNG was new to me, even though I had been a professional Automotive Mechanic for 30 years I had never used it or worked on vehicles equipped with it. As I looked further into it by posting on forums like CNGChat and others the topic of rules, regulations and certifications kept coming up. After getting kicked off CNGChat a few times for comments about non-EPA Certified CNG Conversions I started the first CNG Blog younkincng.com
Since 2009 I have written about 50 articles about CNG Conversions, how to do them, the politics of CNG conversions and CNG conversions worldwide. To date I have had almost 100,000 visitors to my Blog from all over the world.
Last year I started my own CNG Forum CNGtruth.com It has grown and I hope to help promote CNG in the United States and worldwide.
Six years ago I started doing conversions, since then I have converted almost 100 vehicles along with teaching many mechanics about CNG.
I learned from the very beginning that it was not governmental agencies that was slowing down the spread of CNG conversions in the United States. It was the misunderstanding of CNG Conversion rules and regulations coupled with the mystique of a little known technology such as CNG.
Worldwide most CNG vehicles use simple Aspirated CNG systems. Countries that have more stringent Air Quality Standards started using Sequential Injection CNG systems that are more tunable and able to meet the tighter Standards.
Both systems have their advantages and dis-advantages. I will not go into the differences now, I have written numerous articles on the topic.
In April of 2011 the EPA changed their regulations concerning CNG Conversions. They added 2 new groups of CNG Conversions. They already had rules regarding “EPA Certified” then added “Intermediate” and “Outside Useful Life”.
“EPA Certified” is for new vehicles to 1 year old. The “Intermediate group” includes vehicles 2 years old and older but still within their useful life. This is usually 100K miles. The third category is “Outside Useful Life”, these are vehicles over 100K.
The last 2 categories are not “Certified” but if you jump through the EPA’s hoops you can be “Compliant”. The regulations for these last 2 categories are less stringent.
All of these 3 categories deal with what comes out the tailpipe, the EPA does not regulate safety standards, these regulations come from NFPA52, (National Fire Protection Association).
It is the responsibility of each installer to choose which regulation they will follow. I do not advocate unsafe installs. As far as conforming to EPA regulations, the EPA has made their regulations so ambiguous and burdensome that most converters choose to ignore them. Vehicle owners want their vehicles to be safe and to run clean and smooth, that is what most converters want also.
Shortly after I started doing CNG Conversions the United States Big Oil started finding more and more Natural Gas do to the new fracking technology available. It has always bothered me that that Big Oil does not seem to be not promoting CNG Vehicle Conversions.
BP the largest producer of Natural Gas in the United States has one small statement about CNG Vehicles on their website,
“Compressed natural gas
CNG vehicles give off about 85% less carbon monoxide and non-methane hydrocarbon emissions than conventional cars. So far CNG is mainly used for buses and commercial vehicles, but car makers are working on viable vehicle designs for the average motorist.”
Exxonmobile, one of the largest Natural Gas producer worldwide have more to say on the subject of CNG Vehicles.
“ExxonMobil expects that , growth in natural gas as a transportation fuel for light-duty vehicles will be limited. While natural gas prices may be lower than gasoline prices, fuel cost is just one dimension of a consumer’s decision about which vehicle to purchase. Other dimensions include the fact that natural gas vehicles are more expensive.
In the United States today, CNG cars can cost about $8,000 more than comparable gasoline-powered cars. CNG vehicles have fuel economy similar to conventional gasoline engines, so a typical driver would take more than five years to recoup the extra purchase cost.
Consumers looking to save fuel costs are more likely to choose hybrid vehicles, which are slightly more expensive than conventional vehicles but have far higher fuel economy. CNG vehicles also have a shorter driving range — up to 40 percent less than comparable vehicles using liquid fuels — due to CNG’s lower energy density and the fact that an adequately sized fuel tank is sometimes challenging to fit into a car.
In all sectors and regions, development of a fueling infrastructure is one of the largest hurdles to natural gas vehicle (NGV) penetration. Fleets of vehicles that return to base each day can economically benefit from a single, highly utilized CNG fueling station. Trucks that travel on established long-haul corridors also have the potential for highly utilized, and therefore economic, LNG fueling stations.
Most challenging is building the fueling infrastructure for passenger vehicles, including a large network of easily accessible refueling stations, particularly because of the shorter driving range of NGVs. In the United States, only about 1 percent of fueling stations are equipped for natural gas. Home refueling is an option, but the equipment cost can be as high as $4,000.
Ultimately, consumers — individuals and businesses — will assess their needs and the costs of various options when deciding if natural gas as a transportation fuel is right for them. Markets will determine which transportation sectors can benefit most from natural gas and a fueling infrastructure will develop around those markets.
Even though I agree with most of Exxonmobile’s assessment of the state of CNG here in the United States world-wide many countries have converted up to 25% of their vehicles to CNG. This is due to smaller land mass, less sophisticated vehicles, fewer real or supposed governmental regulations and a government that wants to promote a less expensive fuel that has fewer emissions.
Over the past 6 years Independent Converters like myself and others have been producing safe clean conversions that have given many New CNG vehicle owners a safe, clean, economical alternative to gasoline and diesel.
As Natural Gas Vehicles become more popular, the CNG Converters and CNG Consumers will increase in spite of and not because of the Big Oil and Governmental Regulations.
CNG will continue to be the best choice as an alternative fuel leaving biofuels, electric vehicles and hybrids behind