GM Gives a Nod to Natural Gas Vehicles — Pickens Smiling Somewhere

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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