Accelerating Natural Gas as an Alternative Fuel
Domestically produced, clean burning, lower emissions and abundant. Natural gas as a vehicle fuel would be an innovative and major initiative for consumers, the economy and the environment. But what would it take for natural gas to deeply penetrate the light-duty vehicle market?
Integrated Natural Gas Vehicles
Instead of investing in dedicated compressed natural gas (CNG) filling stations, consumers could purchase natural gas vehicles (NGV) or convert their current cars and light trucks to run on natural gas. By converting the air conditioning system in these vehicles to use methane instead of chloro- or flouro-carbons, the existing air conditioning system would provide the needed methane compression to 4,000 psi, allowing the vehicles to refuel themselves from abundant, low pressure natural gas distribution pipelines. The addition of a reinforced, lightweight natural gas tank complements these modifications and offers safe storage of the natural gas.
Natural Gas Distribution
Today, there are more than 305,000 miles of pipelines delivering natural gas to millions and millions of homes, businesses and manufacturing plants. Tapping into this resource would quickly and easily enable an NGV network to fuel the nation’s cars and trucks. No sophisticated technologies are required, simply the establishment of fueling stations at any number of diverse locations. Because it would take about 30 minutes to compress and fill 10 gasoline gallon equivalents (GGE), grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, shopping malls and other consumer locations, in addition to homes, would be ideally suited to offer this new convenience.
Consumers are readily using wireless technologies and smartphones to make online purchases — a model that can work for natural gas refueling. Equipping natural gas filling nozzles with smart radio frequency identification (RFID) tags or remote sensors helps locate the dispenser location, identify fuel ownership and meter the sale. Using a mobile phone app or the vehicle’s onboard GPS system, consumers would be enabled to authorize and pay for the fill-up. Because power comes from the car and phone app, there’s a no-contact approach with the gas connection and contained infrastructure cost. By using and incorporating existing technologies for natural gas refueling, consumers can realize considerable convenience and help shift today’s current “station-centric” model for refueling their cars to a “vehicle-centric” model.
Using natural gas to fuel vehicles is not only possible, it’s also easily accessible. Using many existing technologies, this new model matches available fuel to consumer demand for convenience, all the while offering environmental and emission improvements for a nation.