Five Facts about Natural Gas Cars

Little green car

Your furnace, your stove...your car?  How natural gas is changing the face of today's automotive marketplace.

Natural gas is just one fuel in an array of alternative fuels being used to power cars today.  But what do you really know about natural gas cars and how do they actually work?  Below are five facts about the fuel itself, as well as information about the cars that use it for power.

Natural Gas Car Design

Natural gas cars use the same basic operating principles as conventional gasoline powered cars. They are fueled with compressed natural gas (CNG), and like a conventional car, CNG fuel is mixed with air which, in turn, is ignited by a spark. Computers and sensors regulate the mixture to allow the fuel to burn most efficiently. At a CNG refueling station, a natural gas car can be filled in approximately the same amount of time as a gasoline powered car. CNG is housed in cylinders that take the place of a fuel tank in a conventional car. These cylinders are covered by a hard outer shell and foam to protect them in the event of a crash.

Natural Gas — Plentiful, Affordable, Domestic

Natural gas is plentiful in the United States. In fact, by some reports, vast resources of natural gas are just now being explored and discovered. Natural gas is also considerably less expensive than gasoline, costing anywhere from 40 cents less to as much as 75 cents less per gallon of gasoline equivalent in some states.  Furthermore, over 60 percent of petroleum used in the U.S. is imported, while nearly 98 percent of natural gas is produced in North America.

Cleaner, Safer Natural Gas

Natural gas has a high octane rating and can produce a significant amount of energy.  And although natural gas is a fossil fuel, it is the cleanest burning fossil fuel, making it friendlier to the environment than petroleum. When burned, it generates approximately 30 percent less carbon emissions than that of a gasoline powered car.  Additionally, natural gas is safer than gasoline. It doesn't collect on the ground when leaked but rather, it disperses quickly and harmlessly into the air when released.  Finally, CNG powered cars are among the greenest vehicles on the road, generating reduced emissions and better fuel efficiency than many conventional cars.

Fill 'Er Up...At Home

At present, CNG fueling stations can be hard to find in some areas of the country, but many more are popping up every day. Natural gas car buyers do have the option of buying a home fueling system that borrows from the natural gas supply at their residence to refuel their vehicle. Unlike the fast fill of a natural gas station, however, home fueling systems use a small compressor with no capacity for storage. Therefore, it can take about an hour per gallon to fill your natural gas car at home. Be sure to set aside ample time, since filling up at home would probably be an overnight process.

Popularity of Natural Gas Cars Growing

Currently, no manufacturers are mass producing natural gas vehicles, with the exception of Honda.  However, the abundance of natural gas, its affordability, its efficiency in cars and its friendliness to the environment have led to a nationwide push for manufacturers to produce natural gas cars en masse.  Due to its ever-growing popularity, we should expect to see more natural gas vehicle offerings in the not-so-distant future.

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