10 Comments

Summary:

Cheap, abundant natural gas is changing the game for energy in the U.S., and that means a renewed push for natural gas cars.

Screen Shot 2012-07-18 at 8.21.27 AM

Cheap, abundant natural gas is changing the game for energy in the U.S., and that means a renewed push for natural gas cars. According to Pike Research, there will be a total of 25 million natural gas vehicles on the roads worldwide by 2019, and the amount of natural gas vehicles sold in North America will grow around 10 percent a year between now and 2019. GE estimates there are 15 million natural gas cars globally today, and around 250,000 in the U.S.

For now, the amount of natural gas trucks for commercial fleets will outpace sales of natural gas cars to consumers in most markets, as there just aren’t many natural gas consumer cars available, the infrastructure for fueling such cars isn’t widespread, and consumers haven’t shown all that much interest in these cars yet. A few countries in the world, however, do have significant amounts of natural gas cars on the roads already, particularly for taxi use, including Argentina, Brazil, Iran, and Egypt, says Pike Research. In addition, Pakistan will have 2.7 million natural gas vehicles on the roads by the end of 2012.

In the U.S., though, a renewed push from companies and the government could lead to more innovation to deliver natural gas cars to consumers. Last week, the Department of Energy’s high-risk, early stage program — ARPA-E — announced a new project that will give $30 million in grants to companies, university labs and startups building the next-generation of natural gas vehicle technology. Grant winners included GE, Ford, Eaton, SRI, Other Lab, Texas A&M, Pacific Northwest National Labs, and the Center for Electromechanics at the University of Texas at Austin.

GE is using the grant to build a natural gas refueling station for homes that will be cheaper and can refuel more quickly than what’s currently available. Other Lab is using the grant to work on a high-pressure natural gas tank that uses small diameter tubes tightly wound into a tank shape, like intestines.

As GigaOM Pro cleantech analyst Adam Lesser wrote earlier this year, all this innovation is all being spurred by super low cost, and abundant natural gas in the U.S. Natural gas dipped below $2 per thousand cubic feet in April, the first time in a decade, driven by the expansion in hydraulic fracking, a mild winter and the fact that the U.S. market is largely closed to outside demand because we cannot yet export natural gas at scale. That makes today’s natural gas prices of around $2.40, the same as about $14 per barrel of oil, or $1.50 less per gallon when compared to gasoline. And natural gas emits fewer emissions when burned compared to oil.

Image courtesy of GE, Gerry Dincher.

  1. This makes me happy because of the article I just wrote.

    Share
  2. makes more sense to use the distribution methods we have(electricity) and continue to focus on (1) how to generate (2) how to store (3) how to make electric transportation happen.
    Centralized natural gas electricity generation is a perfectly good use of NG.

    Share
  3. Felix Hoenikker Wednesday, July 18, 2012

    Cost is the big issue, delivered natural gas as a transportation fuel isn’t always cheaper. Especially if the gas and oil spread closes for a number of reasons. Additionally, well to wheel, gas isn’t necessarily clearner due to the emissions from compression. Plus its still combustion, not really “new” technology. Not terribly excited at the prospect of supporting fracking…not so cleantech.

    Share
  4. Natural gas for personal vehicles is not coming stateside in meaningful numbers. The infastructure does not exists. Did you know it take forever to fill a NGV? The growth will be in fleets and regional trucking.

    Share
    1. Felix Hoenikker Wednesday, July 18, 2012

      Depends on the compression rate and psi of ur tanks. But generally speaking yes it takes forever. Additionally even at 3600psi the tank is substantially big, takes up most of your trunk in the Honda civic nat gas. Which doesn’t bode well for trucking as space is already a premium.

      Share
  5. “Shale gas simply isn’t a climate-friendly fuel, even compared to coal and oil.” http://www.treehugger.com/fossil-fuels/rupert-murdoch-needs-some-schooling-shale-gas-climate-change.html

    Share
  6. I would think that hybrids/battery cars would be a more likely candidate. They’ve already got their foot in the door, I’m seeing more Volts on the road lately.

    Energy Load Calc

    Share
  7. I looked into starting a conversion business and fueling station. Quite frankly it is far too expensive to get going and it doesn’t make much sense for normal consumers. It seems aobut where solar is now, just on the verge. Regulations are also a little silly. The California CARB laws that 16 states have adopted don’t allow bi-fuel engines at the present. That is a huge hit as I feel that until the infrastructure is built out you need bi-fuel.

    Electric vehicles are the way to go and use CNG for fleets and power plants.

    Share
  8. This most definitely will not be the case. The push in racing has been electric motors and the race track is where new tech is developed to trickle down to consumers. Save the nat gas for general power use. Internal combustion engines using gasoline, nat gas or otherwise are obsolete.

    Share
  9. What is the difference between natural gas and the gas we use right now? Due to the concerns about fracking, does it make sense to support a natural gas movement? Is natural gas viable in the long-term, or another stop gap measure that will eventually also need to be replaced? Will prices match those of regular gas once the market demand for natural gas cars increase?

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post