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Summary:

All of the noise coming from the T. Boone Pickens camp over ramping up natural gas vehicles in the United States seems to be having some effect on the companies leading the remake of transportation. Or at least it’s creating a conversation out there. Recently GM […]

All of the noise coming from the T. Boone Pickens camp over ramping up natural gas vehicles in the United States seems to be having some effect on the companies leading the remake of transportation. Or at least it’s creating a conversation out there. Recently GM Vice President, Research & Development Larry Burns wrote a post on the company’s blog that is surprisingly positive about GM’s position on using natural gas for vehicles, given that GM has been pushing biofuels and its Volt program far more than it’s led any discussion of natural gas vehicles.

Burns writes that natural gas powered transportation is “enticing because it is abundant, affordable and relatively clean,” and says GM already has “extensive experience with natural gas vehicles.” He’s talking about the Opel Zafira, a compressed natural gas vehicle for the European market, which doesn’t sound all that extensive of experience.

One of the most interesting bits is that Burns writes that GM is

exploring a dual-fuel approach with natural gas and gasoline for U.S. customers. While we are not ready to commit to a future production plan, we are taking a serious look at natural gas in the U.S. as yet another way to diversify our portfolio of affordable and sustainable transportation energy solutions.

Beyond dual-fuel natural gas cars, Burns says natural gas can be used to create electricity for the Volt, though doesn’t go into any details on that.

But getting customers to drive natural gas vehicles requires more than just design of the cars; it requires building out the infrastructure, too. Perhaps GM is willing to do for natural gas what it’s started to do for biofuels — invest in promoting the distribution.

And if GM actually does take natural gas seriously, they’re going to want government help. Burns says: “Governments will likely need to provide incentives to encourage early adoption of the technology and to jump-start the fueling infrastructure.”

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  1. change is slow but i believe the light bulb has finally turned on. pickens is the man.

  2. Many (most?) U.S. homes already have natural gas supplies. Using something like the “phill” (google it) you could refill your volt’s natgas tank in the very same garage you’re recharging the battery.

  3. jimb,

    Kids have no excuse for leaving the car empty. If they are too lazy to refill it in their own garage, we are doomed, :).

    http://push.pickensplan.com/xn/detail/2187034:BlogPost:577874

  4. Its my understanding that GM has engineering natural gas vehicles since the early 90’s at least, and began selling their first CNG autos by Opel in 1999.

    Chevrolet had produced different CNG vehicles in South America for a few years now, and they are in personal use as well as being used as taxis.

  5. “Its my understanding that GM has engineering natural gas vehicles since the early 90’s at least, and began selling their first CNG autos by Opel in 1999.

    Chevrolet had produced different CNG vehicles in South America for a few years now, and they are in personal use as well as being used as taxis.”

    Natural gas powered transit buses are very common, both CNG and LNG, and have been for close to 20 years. My GMC truck was converted to dual fuel gasoline/LNG use (same as CNG but different storage as the liquid is stored in a fairly small cryogenic tank) in the late 80s.

    Truck ran great. Barely noted any difference between CNG and gasoline operation when it switched between the two fuels. Conversion was not too very expensive either.

    Main problem for consumers is availability of LNG. CNG problem is tank size. Both are safe, viable alternatives for vehicles to replace gasoline.

  6. Joe Caporale Monday, April 6, 2009

    Wow, Burns should be canned along with his former boss. Is this guy for real?……he doesn’t even know what GM currently offers in CNG? Ok dipstick……your company has an engine option for the light duty and medium trucks that allows for natural gas conversions (hardened valve seats). Your company does regular business with a OEM supplier called Baytech. Baytech offers EPA certified natural gas General Motors vehicles. I cannot beleive GM allows you to speak to the press.

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