AT&T ordering 1,200 compressed natural gas cargo vans

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Compressed Natural Gas

Compressed Natural Gas is very popular in fleet vehicles. Image: Flickr / biofriendly / CC-BY

Hauling cargo from point to point is an expensive proposition, when it comes to energy consumption. AT&T has just put in an order for 1,200 compressed natural gas vehicles from General Motors.

The benefits of CNG

Compressed natural gas is a fuel that can be used to run internal combustion engines, and it costs about 40 percent less than standard gasoline and burns more cleanly. Compressed natural gas requires hardened exhaust valves and hardened internal fixtures that can hold the more-corrosive compressed gas. Larger fuel tanks are required to safely hold and transport compressed natural gas to go similar distances as gas tanks.

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Industrial applications of CNG

Though compressed natural gas has not caught on in most passenger vehicles in the United States, there are some places where the fuel is catching on. Waste Management maintains a fleet of compressed natural gas vehicles. AT&T is planning on using this order of 1,200 compressed natural gas vans as a part of reaching their eventual goal of 8,000 vehicles by 2020. Many public transportation systems also use compressed natural gas in their buses. Compressed natural gas is proving especially popular with industrial-scale applications because fleets can be refueled on-site for a much lower cost.

Problems with CNG

Despite the popularity as a more environmentally friendly fuel, compressed natural gas is not without its problems. Compressed natural gas is the same natural gas used for heating and power generation, and demand for that gas is growing. The methods of mining that gas are also controversial, with hydraulic fracturing being especially controversial in many areas of the United States. Refueling options for CNG vehicles are also very limited, with home refueling stations being made available only in the last few years. AT&T will be paying an additional $14,590 for each compressed natural gas vehicle on top of the average cost of the vehicle, a cost that can be difficult for everyday drivers to amortize.

Sources

Green Autoblog
Consumer Energy Center
Cleanvehicle.org (PDF)

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