There's been a subtle, but increasing, push towards cars that run on compressed natural gas over the years. Honda has been the largest proponent, offering its first CNG-powered Civic GX in 1998. And while the take rate has been slow, it's been enough that the Japanese manufacturer has continued production and sales to non-fleet customers.

Now, Volkswagen is getting into the game with its TGI engine technology. As Automotive News points out, VW was largely responsible for the diesel revolution of the early 1990s, thanks to its direct-injection turbodiesels. Now, its eye is turned towards CNG, with a bi-fuel Golf that's capable of covering 420 kilometers (260 miles) on CNG and a further 940 klicks (584 miles) on gasoline.

The appeal of CNG is that it produces less CO2 relative to petrol or diesel, with some estimates claiming its emissions are 25-percent cleaner. The other bonus is that CNG cars require less investment to net those CO2 improvements than ultra-efficient hybrids and plug-in vehicles. Then there's the issue of peak natural gas. While peak oil remains a talking point, AN spoke to a top scientist for Shell, Wolfgang Warnecke, who said, "The global resources [for natural gas] are enough for at least 250 years."

These factors are a large part of VW's push to lower its fleet CO2 levels to just 95 grams per kilometer by the end of the decade. As part of that, there are plans to offer TGI technology in every model, with the Golf TGI already at dealers. A five-door wagon will follow that model, with sales due to start in the fall. Finally, once VW's new modular transverse architecture comes online, both the Passat and Polo will get the switch to CNG.

What do you think of VW's push into natural gas? Have you driven a vehicle powered by natural gas? Let us know in the comments.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 43 Comments
      funguy6713
      • 1 Year Ago
      Makes perfect sense. The infrastructure is already there with so many natural gas lines out there to homes and apartment buildings. This is a no brainer.
        DaveMart
        • 1 Year Ago
        @funguy6713
        In Germany and much of Europe they will certainly not be trying to fit compressors into homes! They have plenty of filling stations which can do that job, and in Germany there are enough that you are unlikely to need to use petrol even if going on a long run, save perhaps to very remote areas.
          DaveMart
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          Many thanks. I was looking for that information!
        brianXL
        • 1 Year Ago
        @funguy6713
        Yep, I would totally buy one of these. I seem to remember reading that there can be hurdles getting a CNG fill station attached to your home NG supply, though? I love that the vehicles can also run on gasoline which makes them suitable for trips as well.
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
      DaveMart
      • 1 Year Ago
      VW have been making natural gas cars for years, although the new MQB Platform allows them to make a new push to greater availability. VW's NG cars here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_natural_gas_vehicles Secondly, it is not just the cars based on the MQB (transverse) platform which will be NG capable, but those on the NSF platform (Up) and the MLB platform for SUVs like the Touareg. I believe that also applies to their MSB platform: http://www.greencarcongress.com/2013/06/vw-20130620.html So VW/Audi/Porsche will be able to cover virtually all the light vehicle market with CNG offerings. The main drivers towards CNG are that is burns a lot cleaner than petrol, let alone diesel, and most places in Europe is substantially cheaper. It is also relatively easy to supplement with biogas, without the complexity and energetic losses involved in producing synthetic gasoline. With many hundreds of existing CNG filling stations, Germany is well placed to move a lot of cars over to it.
        wxman
        • 1 Year Ago
        @DaveMart
        ...The main drivers towards CNG are that is burns a lot cleaner than petrol, let alone diesel..." That doesn't appear to necessarily be the case. For example, in a paper presented at the 2007 SAE conference, at typical highway driving speeds, CNG vehicle particle emissions were significantly higher than the corresponding ones of the diesel-particulate-filter-equipped vehicles (Schreiber, et al., “Particle Characterization of Modern CNG, Gasoline and Diesel Passenger Cars.” SAE Paper 2007-24-0123, http://www.sae.org/technical/papers/2007-24-0123 (abstract)). Also, based on the certified emission profile of two identical urban bus engine platforms (Cummins 8.9 liter), one diesel and one CNG, the diesel version has lower regulated emissions across-the-board except for NOx which is the same (http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/onroad/cert/mdehdehdv/2013/cummins_ub_a0210587_8d9_0d20-0d01_ng.pdf (CNG); http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/onroad/cert/mdehdehdv/2013/cummins_ub_a0210582_8d9_0d20-0d01.pdf (diesel))... 2013 UB CNG vs. diesel FTP emissions... NMHC - 0.01 g/bhp-hr (Diesel); 0.06 g/bhp-hr (CNG) NOx - 0.13 g/bhp-hr (Diesel); 0.13 g/bhp-hr (CNG) CO - 0.1 g/bhp-hr (Diesel); 9.8 g/bhp-hr (CNG) PM - 0.000 g/bhp-hr (Diesel); 0.002 g/bhp-hr (CNG) A study by CARB (not really a diesel supporter) concluded that diesel buses with DPF still have an advantage over CNG buses with oxy cat (Alberto Ayala, Norman Kado, Robert Okamoto, Michael Gebel, and Paul Rieger, "CNG and Diesel Transit Bus Emissions in Review." http://www.osti.gov/bridge/servlets/purl/829623-F0uIqi/native/829623.pdf, "conclusion" pages 5-6).
          wxman
          • 1 Year Ago
          @wxman
          I'm not going to refute your points, just actually to highlight a study by the National Academy of Sciences (probably the most prestigious science organization in the world) that projects approximately the same non-GHG health and environmental "damages" from both CNG and diesel in 2030 (National Academy of Sciences, "Hidden Cost of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use." (2010)). So there's probably not a great deal of difference when all is said and done.
          wxman
          • 1 Year Ago
          @wxman
          I don't disagree that diesel engines require expensive and complicated after-treatment like DPF and SCR. However, 2010-compliant diesel still appears to have generally lower emissions than an equivalent oxy-cat CNG based on the the CARB certs (both open for me; are you sure you copied all of the URL of each?). There are also still some question about how much natural gas leaks from gas wells which MAY offset the lower direct carbon emissions... "…Because of methane leakage from the natural gas infrastructure, a shift to natural gas vehicles from gasoline or diesel vehicles could lead to greater radiative forcing of the climate—i.e., increased warming—for 80 or 280 years, respectively, before beginning to produce benefits, according to a new open access paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)…." Source: Ramón A. Alvarez, Stephen W. Pacala, James J. Winebrake, William L. Chameides, and Steven P. Hamburg (2012), “Greater focus needed on methane leakage from natural gas infrastructure.” PNAS, http://www.greencarcongress.com/2012/04/alvarez-20120410.html "…Assuming EPA’s estimates for leak rates, compressed natural gas (CNG)-fueled vehicles are not a viable mitigation strategy for climate change because of methane leakage from natural gas production, delivery infrastructure and from the vehicles themselves…." Source: http://www.edf.org/methaneleakage "…CNG vehicles fare even less favorably in comparison to heavy-duty diesel vehicles…." (Page 2) Source: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/04/02/1202407109.full.pdf Regarding particle emissions, here's another study which casts some question about the "clean burning" assertion of CNG... "...When accelerating in first gear, the PN emission rate from CNG buses is an order of magnitude greater than from diesel buses of similar maximum power..." Source: Source: Jayaratne, Rohan, Meyer, Nickolas K., Ristovski, Zoran, Morawska, Lidia, & Miljevic, Branka (2010) “Critical analysis of high particle number emissions from accelerating compressed natural gas buses.” Environmental Science and Technology, 44(10), pp. 3724-3731, http://eprints.qut.edu.au/38667/ (abstract) This is a comparison of CNG and conventional diesel (i.e., no DPF). For a demonstration of how effective DPF is, take a look at this video of a DPF retrofit on a diesel school bus, especially at the 3:32-3:58 mark... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wm3i6YQOKKc I don't doubt that CNG has a place as a fuel in transportation. However, I'm still not convinced we'll see any great emission advantage with any shift to CNG from diesel.
          DaveMart
          • 1 Year Ago
          @wxman
          Many thanks for the substantive referenced discussion. 2007 papers and data seem too old to be of use to me, let alone the 2002 paper as the technology has moved on. Only one of your 2013 references would open. Large rigs and buses are also rather different to light vehicles, both in their operating and fuel burning cycles and in their higher cost so that expensive pollution mitigation equipment can be more easily covered. Here is a fair statement of the present state of play so far as I am aware: ' What are the air emissions differences between CNG and fuel? Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel (and a clean-burning renewable fuel when produced from biogas) with no mercury, essentially no sulfur and a lower carbon footprint than petroleum or coal. Compared to conventional gasoline or diesel engines, CNG and LNG engines can have much lower emissions of particulates, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and carbon monoxide. The EPA has called the natural gas fueled Honda Civic the “cleanest burning internal combustion engine in the world” and the Department of Energy provides a wealth of information about the clean burning characteristics of natural gas engines in buses, delivery vehicles and sanitation vehicles at the Alternative Fuels and Advaced Vehicles Data Center. The latest diesel trucks, meeting EPA standards for engines manufactured on January 1, 2010 and later, also have very low emissions. In fact, the newest diesel engines can be as clean as natural gas engines in CNG and LNG applications. The difference, however, is that the newest diesel engines require very sophisticated emission control equipment including diesel particulate filters, selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems and the continuous use of diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), while a comparable natural gas engine can meet the same NOx standards with a simple, maintenance free catalytic converter. Natural gas engines are also much quieter than even the newest diesel engines of a comparable size; it takes approximately 10 heavy duty natural gas vehicles to equal the sound of one comparable diesel vehicle. The greenhouse gas emissions of CNG and LNG vehicles, however, are approximately 25% lower than diesel because, on average, natural gas releases less carbon dioxide per unit of energy than petroleum. Over an entire fuel lifecycle (production, refining, transportation and combustion) natural gas supplies in the U.S. have approximately 21 to 26% less greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum, but these numbers may vary depending on the source of the natural gas, the source of the petroleum and the specific engine application.' http://www.stateenergyoffice.wi.gov/sublink.asp?linksubcat2id=2596&linksubcatid=3557&linkcatid=3692&linkid=1462
          wxman
          • 1 Year Ago
          @wxman
          One more point, PM from CNG has been shown to be much more mutagenic (a rough measure of carcinogenicity) than even conventional diesel (http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/seminars/kado/kado.pdf - slide #25). This is also an older study (~10 years), but I'm not aware of any recent studies which refutes those data.
      jonwil2002
      • 1 Year Ago
      Where natural gas vehicles really shine is in fleet usage where the owner of the vehicle can have natural gas refueling stations installed. The state government Public Transport Authority in Western Australia has over 500 CNG powered buses in its fleet (out of around 1300-1400 buses total) I have also heard of local council trucks and other vehicles using CNG
      Wetstuff
      • 1 Year Ago
      I was always surprised what a 'secret' it was you could get a Bottled Honda? I heard about it a long time ago, but people are creatures of rumor and habit. Jim
        Oolly
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Wetstuff
        The CNG Civic is kept mostly hidden. It has not been offered is all states until very recently, and I have never seen one on a dealer lot or at a car show in the company exhibit. A CNG exhibit may have one, but no one to talk to about it. CNG should be more popular, with prices currently at about 85 cents per equivilant gallon. Other than not being able to find them, they are not cheaper than hybrids as the article claims. Just compare the Civic Hybrid to the Civic CNG. One additional problem may be that many worry about not being able to find CNG. With dual fuel, VW could get far more interest.
          DaveMart
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Oolly
          The article says: 'The other bonus is that CNG cars require less investment to net those CO2 improvements than ultra-efficient hybrids and plug-in vehicles. ' That sounds like to the manufacturer to me, not the customer. In any case, CNG vehicles are way cheaper in Europe than the States. New ones are also purpose designed, so you don't get so much intrusion from bulky tanks.
      loopless
      • 1 Year Ago
      Also CNG/LNG engines tend to last forever as so little contamination of oil etc. Ask the Taxi drivers in Australia they get crazy mileages out of those engines.
      Piervittorio Trebucc
      Fiat was largely responsible for the diesel revolution of the early 1990s, thanks to its common rail technology, then adopted by every car producer in the world. VW with its surpassed and polluting traditional direct injection tubodiesels couldn't even match the anti pollution laws in many countries! And Fiat is leading the CNG revolution from many years, not VW: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-17/gasoline-sticker-shock-fuels-fiat-natural-gas-auto-sales.html
      Tom Janowski
      • 1 Year Ago
      For everything positive about tailpipe emissions for CNG, there is the dirty and destructive story about the process of fracking for natural gas. The negatives definitely outweigh the positives.
      Ok
      • 1 Year Ago
      VW's first priority should be getting some more modern regular gasoline engine for their cars, not CNG. The gas mileage in car with their 2.5L is awful. 29 highway in a Beetle, 31 highway in a Golf or Jetta? C'mon! Modern mid-sized cars get 35 to 38 highway these days, much less compacts.
        Haelphadreous
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Ok
        That engine is going away real soon, 1.8l turbo should be replacing it in the Mark 7 Golf. For that matter my GTi gets around 24 city and 35 freeway, I have averaged 28.2 mpg over the last 3500 miles or so, with a pretty high percent of city driving.
      ferps
      • 1 Year Ago
      The other great thing about natural gas: you can fill up your car at home
        DaveMart
        • 1 Year Ago
        @ferps
        Good luck on getting fire insurance for your home pump and compressor. How much do you think they would cost anyway?
          ferps
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          I bet you don't own an oven either.
          DaveMart
          • 1 Year Ago
          @DaveMart
          The oven is normally covered by home insurance here. Perhaps it is not wherever you come from? In that case you should look into getting tarmac roads built to run your home-powered car on.
        Dayv
        • 1 Year Ago
        @ferps
        Do you think it's as easy as filling a bottle of water? The C in CNG stands for "compressed". That's the hard part.
      diffrunt
      • 1 Year Ago
      As an airline ground equipment mechanic, I was once involved in a long term CNG test with tow tractors etc. Test teardowns showed like new internals. It developed that equipment operators could not trusted for safe refueling.
      Tweaker
      • 1 Year Ago
      Anything to keep my fuel money in country and away from people who hate us. Diesel is a non-starter.
        Lachmund
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Tweaker
        i hate you
        Dave
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Tweaker
        Do Canadians hate us?
          Tweaker
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Dave
          If you ever pay attention to CBC, you might think so. But that is pedantic. Our oil demand supports the high prices and fluctuations no matter where its produced. So, buying Canadian oil still keeps King Faud and Putin and the Ayatollah smiling.
          paulwesterberg
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Dave
          No, we pay for their healthcare.
        Dave
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Tweaker
        We should give more money to the Germans. They've never been a problem.....
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