GE, Eaton developing cheaper natural gas refueling stations

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CNG station

Eaton and GE are both working on cheaper natural gas refueling stations to make it easier for people who drive CNG cars. Photo Credit: Xnatedawgx/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

Natural gas, or rather compressed natural gas or CNG, has great potential as fuel for vehicles, though there is little in the way of refueling infrastructure. However, two forthcoming home refueling stations from General Electric and Eaton might make it easier to have CNG cars.

Few fueling stations for the few CNG cars on the road

There are good reasons to switch to compressed natural gas, or CNG, as a fuel for cars. It’s cheaper than gasoline, as it sells, according to Bloomberg, for the equivalent of $2.09 per gallon. It is abundant in the U.S., and produces far fewer emissions than gasoline or diesel.

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However, there are few fueling stations one can fill up at. According to Popular Mechanics, there are only 941 stations where the public can fill up their CNG cars, located mostly in New York, California, Utah and Texas. Home refueling stations, which compress the gas and fill the vehicles’ tanks, are the other option. They are expensive, though; some models range up to $10,000 or more, according to AutoGuide. One of few commercially available models, the Phill, costs almost $5,000, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Cheaper options coming from Eaton and GE

However, a few companies are trying to do something about that. The Eaton Corporation, the same company that makes superchargers drag racers have been using for decades, has announced its intention to develop a natural gas home refueling station in conjunction with the University of Minnesota, that will go on sale for around $500, according to Bloomberg. The goal is to have the unit available by 2015.

At the same time, General Electric announced similar plans in a joint venture with Chart Industries and the University of Missouri, for an affordable natural gas refueling station. The goal is basically the same; a CNG home fueling station that will cost around $500 and charge a CNG car’s tank in about an hour. Currently, home units take about 8 hours to fill.

Not many cars out there

There are few options as far as vehicles go. Currently, according to the Wall Street Journal, Ram and General Motors sell hybrid gasoline-natural gas trucks that operate using both fuels. Ford has been offering natural gas conversion kits for select vehicles for several years. The only available car is the Honda Civic. However, the Civic Natural Gas costs $10,400 more than the base Civic, according to Honda, though the Civic NG has an upscale trim package. The gasoline equivalent is $5,000 cheaper. It also takes 9 years for the gas savings to pay off.

Aside from that, a natural gas conversion can also be done. According to Popular Mechanics, it has to be done by a qualified professional, as messing with the fuel system is a no-no, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. If they find out, it can cost $5,000 in fines per day the car is driven. However, the conversion is easy, as only the fuel tanks, fuel lines and fuel injector programming has to be performed. A natural gas conversion isn’t cheap, either, as it can range from $6,000 to $12,000, depending on who performs it and how extensive it is.

Sources

Bloomberg

Popular Mechanics

Wall Street Journal

AutoGuide: http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2012/07/natural-gas-stations-stations-cheapened-for-home-use.html

Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203986604577257770238882852.html

Honda: http://automobiles.honda.com/civic/


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