Commercial vehicles fueled by CNG make both short and long term sense.
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG
- Mar. 29, 2011
2011 Ford Transit Connect CNG powered taxi – ½ the cost to fuel plus lower maintenance costs!
Higher gasoline and diesel prices, increasing government incentives and lower CNG fuel costs are creating a big interest in compressed natural gas (CNG) powered commercial vehicles offered by Ford and others.
Orders for CNG Transit Connect Taxis in particular are coming in from Vegas, St. Louis, Boston and Chicago.
CNG is made by compressing natural gas, which is mostly methane. It is stored and distributed in hard containers at a pressure of 2,900 to 3,600 psi. In addition, approximately 85 percent of the CNG used in the United States is produced domestically.
CNG is used in traditional gasoline internal combustion engines that have been modified to operate on CNG. In addition to the Transit Connect Taxi, CNG is an option for Ford E-Series vans and even F-Series Super Duty trucks.
CNG is a nontoxic clean-burning fuel that significantly reduces CO, CO2 and NOx compared with gasoline and diesel fueled vehicles. CNG also results in a 30 plus percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Another benefit is cost. The price per gallon equivalent of CNG peaked at $2.34 in the summer of 2008 whereas today, the national average is less than $2.00 per gallon equivalent today!
All told, CNG costs just over half the price of gasoline to travel the same distance yet is cleaner burning and most is domestically produced. Not only is that a big deal given the country is currently spending $3.60 per but also very convenient for those fleet users that have a CNG refueling facility onsite.
Government incentives such as rebates or tax credits are prompting fleet owners to buy or convert their vehicles to run on CNG at reduced rates.
For example, the federally funded Clean Cities Petroleum Reductions Program is providing $300 million in funding to regional projects across the United States. One project is the Connecticut Clean Cities Future Fuels Project, which partially covers the costs of converting a vehicle to CNG. That project alone plans to provide funding for a total of 264 alternative-fuel vehicles.
Metro Taxi of West Haven, CT will soon take delivery of 20 Transit Connect Taxis powered by CNG.
Bill Scalzi, Owner of Metro Taxi:
“Without the help of the government program I wouldn’t have been able to purchase so many CNG-powered Transit Connect Taxis at one time. I like the Transit Connect Taxi for its spacious passenger area and cargo capacity, so the government assistance was timely.”
The incentives also are helping fund construction of CNG fueling stations. Nearly 1,000 CNG fueling stations are now spread across the United States with cities such as Tampa, FL and St. Louis, MO about to receive their first public CNG stations.
Non-commercial CNG fueled vehicles
With a range between refueling of less than 300-miles for the CNG powered Civic GX, as hard as I tried, I could not make a case for a long distance journey from one large metropolitan center to another. Using the DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy - Alternative Fuels Routing app
, a drive from Chicago to NY City was all but impossible due to the fact most CNG stations are privately owned and public access is limited or not available. Locally, there are CNG stations within 10-miles but between large urban centers over vast distances; you may find yourself between a rock and a hard place.
This is a small hurdle however as CNG refueling today is meant for fleets within the urban centers including taxi’s which will not only help reduce the emissions they are contributing to but offer owners a far lower cost when it comes to “the pump”.