• Jun 7, 2010
You take the high(drogen) road and Oklahoma'll take the CNG road. That's the situation in the Sooner State now that Governor Brad Henry signed the Oklahoma Energy Security Act, which tries to make the state less dependent on foreign oil, into law last week. The new law declares that 15 percent of the state's electricity has to come from renewable energy sources by 2015 and, more germane to our car-centered blog here, it "spells out goals to have CNG fueling stations located along the Interstate highway system in the states."
Specifically, Oklahoma will attempt to install a public compressed natural gas fueling station every 100 miles along all of the interstate highways in Oklahoma by 2015. By 2025, this number of stations will increase to one every 50 miles. The state's Department of Central Services is in charge of the program, and it's expected that public-private partnerships will be used to get the stations up and running. In April, Oklahoma became the fourth state where the only CNG-powered passenger car for private use in the U.S. went on sale. Thanks to Steve G. for the tip!

[Source: Trucking Info, AP | Image: darinrmcclure - C.C. License 2.0]


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  • 17 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Anyone care to make the case why Hydrogen Fuel Cells are superior to CNG? CNG seems to make so much more sense from a cost standpoint. Public CNG fueling stations are probably at LEAST an order of magnitude cheaper than Hydrogen stations.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "...that loves the automotive fleet towards energy independence,"

        should be: "...that moves the automotive fleet..."

        Freudian slip? I do love cars of all kinds!
        • 4 Years Ago
        Fossil fuels are not the only source of methane.
        • 4 Years Ago
        HFCV's advantages are largely environmental and political, not something that the masses of mindless end users will understand or care about.

        NGVs have several "real-world" advantages over HFCVs:
        - NGV are available now, HFCVs are still a few years away and will be more expensive.
        - There are more NGV fueling stations than HFCV stations, and it's much cheaper to build NGV fueling stations.
        - It is theoretically possible to fuel an NGV in your home.

        Therefore, if NGVs have been a commercial failure, why HFCV advocates feel H2 will be any more successful?
        • 4 Years Ago
        HFCVs are not solely dependent on a fossil fuel.

        NGVs are. Therefore, HFCVs are superior to NGVs in that they can run on a greater variety of sources including renewables.

        However, there are great gains made when an NGV runs on a natgas/H2 blend.

        "DOE's Natural Gas Vehicle Technology Forum supported a project to develop heavy-duty HCNG engines and transit buses. The HCNG (20% hydrogen, 80% CNG) engines demonstrated lower emissions, including a 50% reduction in NOx, than similar engines fueled with CNG alone with no significant change in fuel efficiency. Chassis dynamometer emission testing confirmed the substantial NOx reduction due to HCNG when the engines were integrated into transit buses."

        http://www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/fuels/hydrogen_blends.html

        I do support NGVs as part of a well-mixed solution that loves the automotive fleet towards energy independence, but the localized tailpipe emissions released from a NGV may preclude them from specific geographic areas, such as urban centers, that may require 0% tailpipe emissions.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "Therefore, if NGVs have been a commercial failure, why HFCV advocates feel H2 will be any more successful?"

        That's a false assumption. NGVs have been very successful commercially in markets other than the US.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Both HFCVs and NGVs have their benefits and disadvantages.

        If the fuel market is isolated to only range-extenders and vehicles that NEED 300+ miles with quick refueling:

        From an economic standpoint, NGVs and Methanol are a clear winner. They might not be the "cleanest", but if the majority of miles are driven using grid electricity, then the emissions don't matter as much as cost. And since the 300+ mile market is mostly commercial trucking.. I think they will choose the cheapest method of refueling.

        From a strict technical standpoint, HFCVs offers the cleanest alternative fuel source (second only to BEVs using grid power from NG, Nuclear or better). But at such high cost both in terms of vehicle price and infrastructure... and with the market for less than 10% of driving... it hardly seems worth the hassle. Why spend billions on cleanest, when simply "cleaner" at 1/10th the cost will do great? "Perfect is the enemy of Good"

        -------------

        If BEVs did not exist... then 100% of the driving market would be up for grabs as the future of transportation. And think the huge investment of Hydrogen would be worth it to become independent from foreign fuel and to be low emission. But BEVs do exist, and have a huge head start... so I think the passenger (light-duty) fleets which make up over 70% of driving will be made up of BEVs and PHEVs.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Evan,
        Leaving aside a number of rather contentious statements you have made, the reason I think that fuel cell vehicles together with batteries have a bright future is because I see fossil fuels getting scarcer and more expensive.
        If petrol sinks to $2/gallon, then neither BEVs nor fuels cell cars will be built in large numbers.
        If it goes up to $4-5/gallon, then initially battery cars and natural gas vehicles will do well.
        If the predictions of some that, at least the US, has enormous supplies of extraordinarily cheap gas are true, then that would not only come to displace a lot of oil burn, but would take over many generating functions.
        Aside from the fact that the estimates of 100 years of supply are more than somewhat dubious and using it for more things would anyway use it faster, the price has to rise to make it profitable to extract:
        http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/investment-ideas/features/taking-stock/a-contrarian-makes-another-call-this-time-natural-gas/article1538686/
        Under those circumstances the pressure would be on to use the natural gas which is anyway trying to cover deficiencies in oil imports as efficiently as possible.
        That means fuel cells.

        In the home and in the power grid though, it could mean the introduction of technology such as the Bloom Box:
        http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/02/following-bloom-energy-news.html

        This would free natural gas to power transport, and incidentally increase the efficiency of battery storage relative to fuel cells in the car, as the grid is at the moment not very efficient.

        It would free up enough energy to run transport on though, within realistic constraints for the amount of fuel available.

        I don't think that batteries can do it all, and fuel cells have their part.
        For the division though we will have to wait to see how the technologies progress.

        So Nat gas ICE cars vs fuel cell cars - it depends on the price of gas!

        • 4 Years Ago
        Both HFCVs and NGVs have their benefits and disadvantages.

        If the fuel market is isolated to only range-extenders and vehicles that NEED 300+ miles with quick refueling:

        From an economic standpoint, NGVs and Methanol are a clear winner. They might not be the "cleanest", but if the majority of miles are driven using grid electricity, then the emissions don't matter as much as cost. And since the 300+ mile market is mostly commercial trucking.. I think they will choose the cheapest method of refueling.

        From a strict technical standpoint, HFCVs offers the cleanest alternative fuel source (second only to BEVs using grid power from NG, Nuclear or better). But at such high cost both in terms of vehicle price and infrastructure... and with the market for less than 10% of driving... it hardly seems worth the hassle. Why spend billions on cleanest, when simply "cleaner" at 1/10th the cost will do great? "Perfect is the enemy of Good"

        -------------

        If BEVs did not exist... then 100% of the driving market would be up for grabs as the future of transportation. And think the huge investment of Hydrogen would be worth it to become independent from foreign fuel and to be low emission. But BEVs do exist, and have a huge head start... so I think the passenger (light-duty) fleets which make up over 70% of driving will be made up of BEVs and PHEVs.
        • 4 Years Ago
        They use the fuel around 2.5 times as efficiently:
        http://blogs.edmunds.com/greencaradvisor/2009/08/toyota-says-hydrogen-fuel-cell-suv-has-431-mile-range-at-equivalent-of-68-mpg.html
        That is once it has had the losses of being made into hydrogen, of course, and that is about 70% efficient.
        So you end up with the natural gas being used around 1.8 times as efficiently as using it in a NG ICE vehicle.
        Combining the fuels in the way the are in Hawaii also has some potential:
        http://green.autoblog.com/2010/05/11/general-motors-to-establish-pilot-hydrogen-infrastructure-in-haw/

        As the link notes:
        'While sun and wind are both plentiful in Hawaii, the fact that they are not constant makes it problematic for grid stability. The ability to store hydrogen gives it an advantage, especially if it is produced from renewable sources. Hawaii has a goal of achieving 70 percent clean energy within a generation. '

        This is less efficient than the 70% figure for reformation, but if you are going to throw it away anyway, for instance excess wind power.......
      • 4 Years Ago
      NG is better than gasoline, and certainly better than sucker-bait hydrogen, but it is not an optimal replacement fuel for gasoline. Instead of compressing the natural gas (methane), it's better to make it into methanol.

      Methanol is a liquid at normal temperature and pressure, making it much easier, safer, cheaper, and more convenient to transport, store, dispense, and use than NG. Even better, in fully flex-fueled vehicles, methanol can be used interchangeably in the same fuel tank with gasoline, in any mix or none at all. The fuel tank can fill any irregular shape, just like today, in between the inner and outer surface of the car. It's trivial for an automaker to add full flex-fuel capability to a given model - only about $130 per car.

      NG, by contrast, must be compressed, creating intense pressure and a chronic danger of leaks or explosions. To prevent this it must be stored in very heavy tanks with simple strong shapes like spheres or domed cylinders, eating up passenger or cargo space. In a "bi fuel" car, that's in addition to the gasoline tank, because NG and gasoline cannot mix. So whichever fuel you use you're hauling the dead weight of the other fuel and its tank around. And the cost of CNG capability is non-trivial.

      It's a no-brainer, so what's wrong with the Oklahoma government?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Converting natural gas into methanol is extremely difficult to regulate. You usually end up with CO2 and water, instead.

        Besides, in each step of the oxidation process, hydrogen is created. I suppose that would be a benefit, really... Why bother completing the process? Just stop after the first reaction when you've got CO and H2.

        Oh, wait. Methanol is made primarily via SMR. Only, there's a couple added steps.

        "Presently, the major part of natural gas is burned to provide thermal energy and only a minor portion of the latter is converted to synthesis gas by steam reforming, which in turn is converted to various products such as methanol and formaldehyde. The two-step process for conversion of natural gas to methanol via production of synthesis gas is a cost bearing method, mainly due to the limitations imposed by oxidation have been conducted by a number of the reaction equilibrium and low heat efficiency."

        http://www.idosi.org/wasj/wasj6(3)/6.pdf

        If you've got natural gas to put through SMR to make hydrogen - to then make methanol - why not just use that natural gas in an NGV?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Curious how much energy is used converting methane to methanol. Of course methanol also has the advantage of coming from other sources and being mostly compatible with the existing liquid fuel infrastructure. Perhaps someday cars could supplement their batteries with DMFCs.

        Then again, natural gas is distributed many places by pipe so there's not as much trucking the fuel around.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Doug, given how cheap methanol is and always has been relative to gasoline, including on a per-BTU or per-mile basis, the energy loss must not be too significant.
      • 4 Years Ago
      That's fine for commercial vehicles, but we need more CNG cars than just
      the Honda Civic GX.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I applaud Oklahoma for taking a step in a direction, any direction away from gasoline. I wish more states would take any initiative.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Again, not my first choice, but makes more sense to me than hydrogen. Perhaps eventually there will be SOFCs or on-board reformers.

      Wonder how much these CNG fueling stations cost. Every 100 miles?? Seems to me they might as well put EV charging stations there as well. Would likely be an incremental cost.
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