The green-tinged former oil baron T. Boone Pickens is such a fan of his plan to have natural gas power a third of U.S. vehicles, he’s joining with a fund to build and launch a new natural gas vehicle for U.S. roads. Pickens and the natural gas distribution company he founded, Clean Energy Fuels, say this morning they have joined with the investment group Perseus to support the creation of a natural gas vehicle to the tune of $160 million. Clean Energy Fuels and Pickens will each commit $10 million, and Perseus is leading the investment; the Vehicle Production Group (VPG) will build the vehicle.
The group says the four-passenger vehicle will be used for taxi and paratransit and will be available in both gasoline and natural gas versions as soon as 2010. There aren’t many more details on the price or specs of the vehicle, but when we learn more we’ll add it. Update: On VPG’s website it says it is working on a vehicle called “The Standard Taxi,” and a Clean Energy spokesperson confirms that this is the vehicle that the company has invested in.
Currently there are very few natural gas vehicles on U.S. roads, though we think city fleets, transit vehicles and taxis are a good place to start. The most well-known natural gas vehicle around is the consumer Honda Civic GX, which costs $24,590 and is sold in California and New York.
There’s a reason there aren’t many of these natural gas vehicles out there yet — the technology has a few hurdles to jump. First off, natural gas vehicles commonly have a shorter range than their gas counterparts; the Honda Civic GX has a fuel mile range of 170 miles. Secondly, there’s a lack of natural gas distribution; according to the natural gas vehicle trade group the Natural Gas Vehicles for America (NGVA) there are more than 1,100 U.S. stations. While Pickens looks ready to invest in building out this infrastructure (he’s the country’s largest private owner of natural-gas fueling stations through Clean Energy Group according to this Newsweek article), it will need a lot more investment than the funds of a green-leaning former oil guy.