Sunday, May 4, 2008

Natural Gas Vehicles: Using Argentina as a Roadmap for Success

include I wrote my research paper on natural gas vehicles and their potential for success here in the United States. Natural gas vehicles are vehicles that run on compressed natural gas (CNG) . Although technically vehicles could also run on liquid natural gas (LNG), this is impractical based on the energy required to remove the heat in order to condense the gas. Operating a vehicle on compressed natural gas has the benefits of running a much cleaner fuel (less CO2 emissions, generally less NOx emissions), a fuel that is not dependent on the whims of OPEC, and a fuel that is available for fill up using the gas lines in our own homes. The disadvantages of CNGdecreases engine power/torque and gas mileage. However, I found that the gas mileage between the Civic GX (runs on CNG) and a regular 4-door Civic is only 1 mpg in favor of the gasoline vehicle. The power decrease is about 15% for a Natural gas vehicle (NGV). The price of natural gas is cheap enough that you could fill your car up at home with your gas line for $1.30 per gallon of equivalent gasoline.

In Argentina, the government has been heavily promoting the natural gas sector since the 1980s. However, this promotion does not include tax incentives or big rebates. The government began by splitting up the state-run company that originally had a monopoly on the natural gas sector. This split injected competition into the market. The government also helped build the first refueling stations. Local manufacturerers also worked to build the parts necessary to retrofit a vehicle to run on CNG. Now, Argentina has the largest NGV fleet at about 15% of personal vehicles.

I believe that we can replicate Argentina's success in the United States with the proper measures. First, we need the government to provide support like the Argentine government. Giving rebates on home-fueling systems is a way that the US government can lend its support. Being the first users of NGV's, the government can make an example of the technology. Supporting the technology in the taxi fleets of large cities is the next step. Finally, exanding the present natural gas infrastructure to include refueling stations can make this technology truly successful.

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