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.]