• Dec 7, 2010
The United States is currently the number one producer of natural gas, but with few exceptions the fuel that heats millions of homes hasn't made it's way into our cars and trucks. Automotive News reports that Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne would like to change that in the coming years by introducing the technology in Fiat and Chrysler vehicles.

The move makes plenty of sense for Fiat, which is currently a natural gas market leader in Europe with 80 percent of the market for methane gas-powered cars and 55 percent of the light truck market. Fiat cites cost advantages and availability of natural gas as main reasons to push the technology in the U.S. A natural gas-powered vehicle carries a $3,000 price premium over the typical petrol mill, compared to $3,300 for diesel and $8,000 for an electric hybrid.

Natural gas seems like a perfect fit for the U.S., but the technology faces many of the same availability obstacles as electric vehicles. AN points out that there are only 1,300 methane fill stations nation-wide; a fraction of the 160,000 petrol stations available to drivers. Fiat research boss Constantinos Vafidis notes that natural gas makes the most sense in "public services and goods transportation, where vehicles are refueled from a central base."

There is little questioning Fiat's acumen in natural gas vehicles, but will Americans be interested? Car-buyers have proven to be largely disinterested in natural gas vehicles, and the only vehicle available for purchase is the Honda Civic GX. Vehicle fleets filled with large trucks could be another matter all-together, as natural gas could help cut fuel costs in half.

[Source: Automotive News - Sub. Req.]


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  • 17 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Interesting, but what about diesel extracted from natural gas? I spotted a old article from 2005 about it http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7815172/ns/us_news-environment/
      • 4 Years Ago
      Anything to get Americans away from Middle Eastern oil.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I am italian. I personally have a Hyundai Coupe V6 (that is the Tiburon GT) converted with an aftermarket kit to dual LPG/Gasoline and I also have a Fiat Panda dual CNG/Gasoline (not aftermarket: fiat produces and sells it).

      Speaking about money (just to give you an idea: here a gallon of gasoline costs (more or less) the equivalent of 7.20 US$):

      The Hyundai (which is a 2.7 liter V6) does 330 Kms with 30 euros of LPG. If I "switch" the engine to gasoline, the same 330 kms will cost 55 euros, giving me almost the same driving experience (the car loses no more than 4% of its power... and anyway I have never tried to push it to its maximum speed not even when running on LPG - i reached 120 mph, maximum).

      The panda has a very smaller engine and surely it is not a car you buy for having a car that's fun to drive... but the panda can do 300 kms with just 10 euros of CNG.

      but... keeping apart the money factor...

      I think you are missing some points when you say "natural gas is not a solution because it is still limited resource / it is not totally clean..."

      these are the points:

      1) EVERY gasoline powered vehicle can be converted NOW into a dual fuel vehicle burning LPG or CNG, with an expense around 2000-4000 dollars. You don't need to throw away your old car. You could convert also your new corvette or your Hummer, or your grandpa's '60s chevvy. you DO NOT need to spend 40.000 dollars on the new chevrolet volt to have a less polluting car or a car that costs less bucks per mile.

      2) Methane is much more enviromental friendly than gasoline. here in italy CNG -
      powered vehicles have the same advantages of electric vehicles.

      3) you are great producers of natural gas: this means that you would not depend any more from middle-east for gasoline if you all switch to natural-gas powered vehicles. If some arabian prince decides to double the prices of gasoline, it won't be a matter of your concern.

      4) building a gas-filling station is not as problematic as building a electrical-car-recharge station: filling a gas thank requires a couple of minutes: you don't have to wait hours for recharging a battery.

      5) thinking about future: CNG and hybrids are not mutually exclusive! who said that a hybrid car has to burn gasoline? it would perfectly possible to build an hybrid car (like a prius) that has a traditional engine that runs on LPG and an electric engine... I know that there are some LPG-converted Priuses here in italy. (I wouldn't do such conversion only because of warranty issues...)
      • 4 Years Ago
      I don't think the public realizes how good it would be for our economy to increase the production and consumption of domestic fuel sources and reduce the trade deficit. All that money staying in our economy, instead of flowing overseas, would have unequivocal implications in terms of fiscal health.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Better idea in 3 Words:

      Liquid Propane, Bobby.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I would support a move towards more LPG or CNG, but there is no infrastructure in the US for it. In Australia, MANY cars are converted to LPG(including most Taxi's) but they have the infrastructure for it.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Why is it the USA domestic market never gets the cool stuff?
        Bloody Aussies already have neat dual-fuel vehicles includiing Ranchero-tastic Utes!!!
        Go to the www.ford.au or www.holden.au sites and check out all the awesome stuff they get down under but we can't have here in the states...grrrr domestic manufacturers continue to treat USA buyers like idiot stepchildren. No wonder we're buying damn Korean cars!
        • 4 Years Ago
        I ran a Range Rover on LPG for about with 50k miles with no ill effects. I'm told LPG cars can run a bit hot and head gasket failure is a problem. But mine was run in England so not a problem because its always wet here! maybe some of your hotter states may have a problem? LPG is a under used bi-product of petrol refining and burns very clean so why not use it? Its about 60 pence a litre here or about £3.00 a UK gallon, petrol is £6.00 a gallon or roughly $9 Dollars! The biggest pain is bulky extra tanks and sporadic supply but if you run a big pick up truck/ute then it shouldn't be to much of a inconvenience.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'll take the diesel option for another 300 bucks, thanks!
      • 4 Years Ago
      But will they buy out the cng fueling station company and shutter them like honda did? That's always great for adoption of alternative energy solutions.
      • 4 Years Ago
      can someone tell me how to get the little avatars to appear in my comments section? thanks!
      http://www.unitedstatesautotransport.com/
      • 4 Years Ago
      No thanks.

      CNG would not solve the main issue that gasoline has - it's a FINITE resource.

      That's the whole reason why EVs are the future - you can make electricity a million different ways and an EV will accept that electricity no matter what.

      You can't do that with a gasoline or CNG engine.

      CNG is great, but not to power actual cars. Use CNG to power generators/power plants to produce electricity.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I never said that CNG wouldn't make a decent fuel source... just not a fuel source for cars.

        CNG needs an entirely new fuel distribution system if it was for cars - and not all homes in the US have CNG.

        Yet EVERY home has electricity... the infrastructure is already in place for the most part.

        And one generation's worth of power is really not that much. I see CNG as a stop-gap, or band-aid solution to our transportation needs. Why spend the time (decade or even decades) and money on building out CNG infrastructure for car usage, when by the time it is really ready to go, battery technology would have long enough range?

        And even if you could distribute it, you can't just convert a regular gasoline engine to run on CNG (well not easily). So essentially you need a whole new car - well if you are going to go that route, then I see no reason to stick with an internal combustion engine, when an EV will eventually suite most people's needs.

        Use CNG in power plants or to heat homes, but I don't see the point in converting it for transportation.

      • 4 Years Ago
      I love natural gas. I would definitely consider a natural gas powered Chrysler, but only as a second car.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I like it better than electric, Hybrid, hydrogen, and on and on and on.
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