Natural Gas Cars: Hidden in Plain Sight

  • Go Green, Save Green

    Spending less money on gas is often a deciding factor when considering a switch to a more environmentally-friendly car, but hybrid and electric vehicles aren’t your only protection from high prices at the pump. Driving a car that runs on natural gas is also cheaper, cleaner and the fuel is produced domestically. Plus, new and better natural gas vehicles will be in the works thanks to about $300 million in government stimulus funds being allocated by the Department of Energy to cleaner transportation, according to The Wall Street Journal. Photo Credit: mugley
    About Natural Gas
  • About Natural Gas

    While it’s still a fossil fuel, natural gas burns cleaner than regular gasoline and diesel fuel, so it’s a positive step in a cleaner direction, and can make a big environmental difference in areas with lots of air pollution. In fact, it burns so cleanly that it’s used for indoor vehicles like forklifts in warehouses, according to USA Today. Here are some of the natural-gas powered vehicles on the road and in the works in the U.S. today. Photo Credit: Rockershirt
    The Old Ford Outlook
  • The Old Ford Outlook

    This may come as a surprise to the average driver, but Ford (Stock Quote: F) has produced nearly 30,000 natural gas vehicles since 1997, including Crown Victoria sedans, F-150 pickups and Econoline vans that were used by taxi companies, city governments, police departments and utility companies, according to The New York Times. Ford abandoned their optimistic plans for natural gas vehicles in 2004 however, after attention to the alternative fuel vehicles waned. But that didn’t last for long... Photo Credit: Marcin Wichary
    A New Natural Gas Taxi
  • A New Natural Gas Taxi

    Ford has rekindled its interest in natural gas cars, and later this year, the automaker plans to offer alternate fuel models of its Transit Connect taxi, which will be prepped for both natural gas and propane conversions, according to Car & Driver Magazine. The conversion itself could cost about $10,000 when the car goes on sale later this year. Cost savings from cheaper fuel prices could be trumped by a fleet’s distance from natural gas refueling stations, however, notes Popular Mechanics. Photo Credit: Ford
    Ford E-Series Van
  • Ford E-Series Van

    Natural gas versions of Ford’s E-Series van, the top selling full-sized van in the U.S., will be available later this year, according to the automaker. The natural gas E-Series will be able to run on both compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas that’s vaporized before it gets to the engine. Beyond fuel economy, the business-friendly E-Series van is high-tech. It has navigation features thanks to a broadband-capable in-dash computer, plus a wireless mouse and printer, notes Road & Track. Photo Credit: Ford
    The Natural Gas Civic
  • The Natural Gas Civic

    Natural gas converts can opt for a factory-built vehicle or choose to modify a regular gasoline-powered civic for natural gas use. The 2010 CNG Honda Civic GX costs about $5,000 to $7,000 more than a Civic that runs on gasoline, but a $4,000 federal tax credit and fuel cost savings help drivers recoup those costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. According to fueleconomy.gov, it’ll cost you about $996 to fuel the CNG Civic, assuming a compressed natural gas price of $1.73 a gallon, 15,000 miles driven per year and 45% highway and 55% city driving. A regular gasoline-powered 2010 Honda (Stock Quote: HMC) Civic would cost about $1,377 per year based on a gas price of $2.66 a gallon, according to Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Photo Credit: Honda
    GM Trucks
  • GM Trucks

    Full-sized, heavy-duty General Motors (Stock Quote: GM) trucks including the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra will be powered by compressed natural gas or propane as early as 2012, according to USA Today. While the engines built by GM for natural gas vehicles will be more durable, aftermarket modifications of light-duty GM pickups for natural gas use will also be possible, GM truck engineer Jeffrey Luke told the paper. Photo Credit: General Motors
    GM's Opel Zafira
  • GM's Opel Zafira

    In Europe, GM already makes an alternative fuel version of its Opel Zafira, which runs on natural gas, biofuel or any mixture of both. This version of the vehicle emits “80% less nitrogen oxide than a diesel, and almost 20% less CO2 than a gasoline model,” GM says. Rumor has it that a version of the Zafira is in the works for the U.S. under the GM badge. Photo Credit: General Motors
    City Buses
  • City Buses

    Roughly 22% of all new transit bus orders are for natural gas, according to Natural Gas Vehicles for America, an organization that represents companies promoting the use of natural gas and hydrogen as transportation fuels. According to the group, the lower fuel costs and decreased emissions from using natural gas have convinced about 125 transit agencies to operate more than 10,000 natural gas buses in America, notes greencar.com. Photo Credit: JLaw45
    School Buses
  • School Buses

    Both lower fuel costs and concerns for children’s health have motivated school bus companies to use natural gas buses instead of diesel-powered buses that can emit harmful particulates into the air. According to greencar.com, studies have shown that 90% less soot is emitted by natural gas buses compared to even cleaner diesel counterparts, the site notes. And a natural-gas powered school bus can displace 1,400 gallons of diesel fuel per year, according to the Department of Energy. Photo Credit: Blue Bird
    Fleet Vehicles
  • Fleet Vehicles

    Utility and other companies that require their own fleets of vehicles to run their business can save a substantial amount of money by running their trucks on natural gas. AT&T (Stock Quote: T), for instance, announced plans last year to put more than 15,000 alternative fuel vehicles on the road by 2019, including more than 8,000 autos running on compressed natural gas. And as more companies catch on, including oil and gas company Encana (Stock Quote: ECA), the number of natural gas vehicles on the road could rise dramatically, to as much as 17 million vehicles by 2015 compared with 9.7 million in 2008, according to Pike Research. Photo Credit: General Motors
    Conversion Kits
  • Conversion Kits

    Many new and used vehicles fueled by traditional gasoline can be converted to run on compressed natural gas for about $8,000 to $12,000 and could be eligible for a federal tax credit, according to the Department of Energy. However, the conversions are EPA regulated and require certification based on a car’s make, model and year. Natural gas group NGVAmerica offers a list of available natural gas vehicles and engines online along with contact information for manufac¬turers and retrofitters. Photo Credit: RobotSkirts
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