• Apr 6th 2009 at 3:09PM
  • 27
Fuelmaker, the company that creates the PHILL compressed natural gas filling stations for residential and commercial use, has just been driven into involuntary bankruptcy. You may recall that Fuelmaker is owned by Honda, which had been in negotiations last year to sell the company to a number of different suitors, most notably to T. Boone Pickens' Clean Energy Fuels. None of those negotiations resulted in a sale.
Fuelmaker's bankruptcy leaves a number of questions as to how companies relying on PHILL fueling units will get their products serviced, and it also casts doubts on the future of CNG vehicles for private residential use. Fuelmaker president John Lyon has hopes that another suitor will "see this as an opportunity and come to the rescue."

We're not ready to count ourselves among those that believe the automaker has ulterior motives in closing up shop at Fuelmaker. For an alternative take from the Edwin Black, click here.

[Source: The Auto Channel / Edwin Black]


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  • 27 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      The bottom line for us at GPS is that we feel (CNG) is the "Home Grown Energy Source of the Future" as long as we can convince our senators and congressman & women to push bills forward that enable us to grow the infrastructure needed to expand the natural gas piping system through out our county to make it easier for you and I to gain access to a CNG filling station. The natural gas utilities across our nation are prepared to make the necessary upgrades to their distribution systems as long as Washington can provide financial incentives either to them and or to the consumer to make it possible. Big Oil Company lobbyists have prevented this from happening in the past. The impact on them would be devastating to their companies as well as their stock holders.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I am a PHIL installer in the San Fran bay area (the only one). By the way, it was $2400.00 installation. Most of cost was due to the building departments permit cost. We were easily installing the unit in 5- 6 hours.. Honda should not have been allowed to do what they did. We have contracts and customers left on a hook. We work really close with Phil Fuelmaker team, and they were great people.

      No corporation or person should be allow to walk away from their responsibility.

      What a terrible decision.

      TEAM PAS
      • 6 Years Ago
      I live in China,Is an authoritarian state,Energy is controlled by the state。I want to own a car converted to dual-fuel cars,National does not apply for private cars to refill card。Helpless,Would like to use this platform to buy a second-hand equipment, Phill,Hope to get everyone's help,To accomplish this desire,breaking the state monopoly,In the home's natural gas pipeline to the filling gas in his car。 Thank you My Address :si-xian@live.cn
      • 5 Years Ago
      I have CNG dedicated, bi fuel cars, trucks and Phill unit for sale in Los Angeles and willing to deliver sold vehicles with 1000 miles. skyline420@aol.com
      • 6 Years Ago
      These home refueling stations cost several thousand dollars installed, and were only available in a limited number of states here in the U.S.

      That's on top of the hefty premium you pay for the Civic GX over its petrol-fueled sibling (and @$2/gallon, no chance of making up the difference)

      And in California where most GX are sold there is already a decent network of public fast-fill stations.

      LPG/gasoline "dual-fuel" conversions are more practical for private owners than CNG-only vehicles like the Civic GX.

      Most CNG-only vehicles remain government-owned and their refuel stations are rarely open to the public.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I apologize for the double post. The real question here is why did Honda do this? They had buyer's who wanted to buy Fuelmaker (T. Boone being one of note) for money - this move is obviously going to cost them money. There's something else, obviously, going on here.

      I'd look for fingerprints of interests that would see CNG vehicles as a near to mid term threat (since CNG automobile production could be switched to very easily). Who wouldn't want Phill's on the market when oil goes back through the roof, as demand comes back in a year or two?

      Just as GM sold its NickeMetalHydride battery patent and technology portfolio to Texaco (I believe) after killing the EV1 (insuring nobody else would be able to get EV size NickelMetalHydride batteries thereafter), I wouldn't be surprised to see something bad in this area as well. Very sad.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Hmm, maybe Honda is trying to reduce potential competition to their planned H2 fuel cell offerings? If so, it's bound to be a big mistake, considering that H2 fuel cell vehicle sales are still decades away, and the alt fuel competitors to H2 won't wait for H2 fuel cell and H2 storage prices to drop.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Let's see: We can convert natural gas to thermal energy to generate electricity, transmit it to a consumer's home, plug in the electric car that converts the electricity to chemical energy so when you drive your electric car the batter will conver the chemical energy into electricity, which will be converted to thrust.

      Or we can take the same natural gas and burn it in an internal combustion engine, which converts it to thrust when you drive your car.

      It's too bad that the public CNG infrastructure isn't more robust. The disconnect with Pickens is that his business model wants to charge market rates for CNG at the fueling station as opposed to consumer utility rates that consumers pay by investing in the Phil technology.

      From an energy efficiency standpoint, this might make more sense where the electricity is generated from coal because in effect you've then converted coal for transportation use. Generally speaking, coal will be the most likely generation source at times that people would be recharging their electric cars.

      Using CNG as a transportation fuel makes a lot more sense than other transportation energy sources. At least it makes a lot more sense than generating electricity from natural gas. Trillions of dollars of NG infrastruture already exists throughout the nation and technology like the Phil make the final connection possible.

      H2 makes no sense because ALL hyrdogen in this market is from reformed Natural Gas. Why does it make sense to make such huge infrastructure investments into a technology where the only remotely economical way to generate H2 is from CH4? Why not just use the CH4 without wasting trillions of $?
      • 6 Years Ago
      Well there are over 2 million LPG cars in Poland and over 1 million in Italy. Not sure whats the percentage of the total fleet but LPG is quite popular option from what I know.

      I would think that lack of demand is more to do with lock of buying options.
        • 6 Years Ago
        There is a difference. LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas) is mainly propane and butane, those gasses condense into a liquid under pressure, greatly increasing storage capacity and driving range. CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) is mostly methane and ethane, those gasses do not liquify under pressure at room temperature.

        The advantage of CNG is that natural gas is delivered through pipes to to many homes, enabling home refueling, it is fairly clean burning, and it has a lower carbon content than LPG.
        Disadvantages of CNG include high compression required which requires expensive specialized compressors, expensive high pressure tanks, and limited driving range compared to similarly sized LPG or petrol tanks.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Not being a liquid at normal temperature and pressure, natural gas is an inconvenient vehicle fuel. It must either be compressed (requiring heavy high pressure tanks with a constant danger of explosion or leaking the entire contents) or cryogenically liquefied (thus risking boil-off) - both of which are energy intensive.

      This problem makes NG prohibitively expensive to transport, so the NG found in oil wells in remote locations such as deep sea wells and poor countries is "burned off" at the site in a colossal waste.

      Furthermore, NG, like most alternative fuels, is not "backwards compatible" with gasoline. An NG car driver running low on the exotic alt-fuel his car needs cannot fill up on gasoline if he can't find an NG station - he's simply out of luck and stranded.

      But there IS a practical way to use NG to break free of oil: NG can easily and cheaply be made into methanol.

      Methanol neatly avoids all of NG's drawbacks. It is a liquid at normal pressure and temperature. And a fully flex-fueled car can run with equal ease on methanol and/or gasoline (in any mix of the two in the same fuel tank at any time). Or ethanol or any alcohol at all for that matter.

      If Honda had spent the mere $100 per car it takes to add full flex-fuel capability to all its new cars at the factory as they were being made, it would have had a guaranteed market for fuel stations selling NG-derived fuel, selling both the razor AND the blades.
      • 6 Years Ago
      PS: The PHIL was equivalenjt to a gas appliance. IE: gas dryer.

      It had more safety features.

      TEAM PAS - WANTED: HONDA FOR MURDER
      • 6 Years Ago
      I purchased a GX on 10/08, and the Phill on 02/09, then Fuelmaker went bankrupt. Then, had the Phil installed on 04/09. Although I am concerned, I am still happy with my purchase. I see it as a 5 to 10 year investment to save on fuel, and protect the environment.

      I hope that eventually there will be someone that will start providing service to the Phi. The Phill requires servicing after 5,000 hours of use.

      Otherwise, I will still depend on four refueling station located in the Sacramento area.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The long term is getting shorter and shorter. Too short for a big role out of CNG. Hybrid and Electric are the two viable solutions. Prius's have been on the road for 10 Years Now. CNG does Nothing about Global Warming, except possibly make it worse. The Arctic Ice Sheets are melting 8 Time faster then previously though.
        • 6 Years Ago
        A CNG hybrid range extended would be cool because:
        - natural gas burns cleaner than gasoline
        - you would never ever need to stop at a gas station
        - the fuel would stay fresh for a longer time without fuel stabilizers
        - schlepping around the unnecessary fuel would be less costly because the fuel would weigh less
        - safer than gas in an accident

        Drawbacks:
        - fueling in your garage with a spark and an explosive gas could cause problems
        - not many places to fill up with natural gas(but you can get propane cylinders at many locations)
        - it takes energy to compress the gas
        - fuel tanks take up more room and are harder to fit in irregular spaces.
        • 6 Years Ago
        How about a CNG hybrid.
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