Wave Of The Future? Natural Gas-Powered Cars Gaining In Popularity

Pros Seem To Outweigh Cons; Honda To Double Production Due To Demand

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — With gasoline prices continuing to rise, many are looking at alternatives like hybrids or electric cars. But there’s a third fuel option rapidly gaining in popularity.

And, as CBS 2’s Don Dahler reports, it’s all-American.

On Monday, Dahler got a look at what appeared to be a regular Honda Civic, but the truth was that particular vehicle was running on a fuel that costs half as much as gasoline and puts out a fraction of the air pollutants: compressed natural gas, or CNG.

“Right now the technology exists with the CNG car to get a more fuel efficient vehicle and a cleaner vehicle with an abundant supply of fuel right here in the USA,” said Brian Benstock, the general manager of Paragon Honda in Woodside, Queens.

Honda is currently the only major car maker producing new CNG vehicles for the general public in the U.S. It’s doubling production this year due to demand, and other car makers are expected to roll CNG cars out within a year.

The benefits of CNG vehicles are much cheaper fuel that causes less damage to the engine, which lowers maintenance costs, extremely low emissions, and a variety of proposed and existing tax credits.

The cons: the CNG Honda costs about $5,000 more than the regular one, filling stations are hard to find (there are only about a dozen in the New York area), you won’t get quite the range as a gasoline car (between 200 and 250 miles), and the compressed gas tank takes up part of the trunk space.

Honda Civic CNG

Experts say compressed natural gas filling stations will begin to pop up all over the Tri-State Area over the next few years as the popularity of Honda's car increases. (Photo: CBS 2)

Right now, CNG cars have to use a special fueling station that fleets use, but as their popularity increases, natural gas pumps will start to appear at gasoline stations and convenience stores.

If you don’t live close to a refueling station, you can have a fueling station put in your home, if you have natural gas going into your house.

But whereas filling your car at a station takes a few minutes, using a home system takes about eight hours, because the gas is a lot less pressurized.

More and more companies and governments are converting their fleets to natural gas. The fuel savings for converting a school bus will pay for the $50,000 conversion within 18 months.

Converting your car is probably still too expensive to make sense, about $15,000, but Michael Misseri of Clean Vehicle Solutions in East Brunswick, N.J., said that will change when demand increases.

“Once enough stations are up then just anybody can go out and have their car converted,” Misseri said.

So in the short term, it may make more sense to look at the CNG cars rolling out over the next few years that are already running on the all-American fuel.

There are bills before Congress which would give federal tax credits for natural gas vehicles, and President Barack Obama has made them a major focus of his energy policy.

Would a car like this interest you? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …

  • Gary Anderson

    CNG Leasing, LLC of Reno, NV with Real Funding Partners is going on national TV next month with William Shatner on How To Move America Forward. GM is coming out with a Heavy Duty Bi-Fuel that uses Natural Gas and Gasoline with a total range of 650 + Miles. Order your unit(s) today and add the home fueling station to your lease or financing.

  • Volt Owner

    What they won’t do to keep you tied to a pump!
    I fill my Chev Volt up each night for about a buck, if I drove it a lot during the day. My solar panels produce about 10KWH each day, which I sell at the day rate, so charging the car at the lower nighttime rate still leaves me enough for normal electrical stuff like lights and washing machine, etc. I’m breaking even so far this year.

    I have put around 5600 miles on the Volt since June, and have only burned around 2 gallons of the dealer provided tank of gas, just because of the 240V “electricity pump” in our garage. (Cost around $400 after incentives.) Oh, and 240V means I can charge fully about 6 times a day, see VoltStats dot net for a lot of numbers, one guy drove 250 miles on electricity in one day!

    Driving for free past all the gas pumps sure is nice!

    • Energy Consltnt

      Electric vehicles can be a part of the solution, which will necessarily invlude mutliple fuel options – including traditional gasoline and diesel. It’s important to recognize that the ultra-low cost of operating an electric vehicle can’t remain if they become a noteable share of vehicles on the road. Gasoline and diesel fuel cost includes taxes that pay for road and infrastructure maintenance and upgrades, and currently electrics use those facilities but don’t pay anything to do so. If electrics market share gets large enough the taxes will soon follow.

    • yomismo


  • Tim Ball

    The better answer is propane-fueled vehicles. The infrastructure is already in place, the physical properties of propane mean that you don’t lose trunk space or add tons of additional weight, and it doesn’t take all night to re-fill, like CNG or electric. But, because the lobby isn’t as strong, there is little push from the government about it. This needs to change. The answer is already here – no expensive infrastructure, no government subsidies needed.

  • L

    A great idea whose time has come. Energy investor T. Boone Pickens has been pushing to get the truck fleet converted to use Natural Gas instead of diesel. As per his estimates US, can reduce import of oil by 3 million barrels per day from unstable regions of the world, just by having the trucks use Natural Gas instead of diesel. Hence converting cars to Natural Gas has benefits on several fronts:
    1.Cleaner air due to less pollution. With four hydrogen atoms for one carbon atom, CH4 is a very clean form of energy with no particulate, or nitrous pollutants.
    2.Reduction of trade deficit as Natural Gas is plentiful in the US
    3.Cheaper than gasoline, so consumers can spend their dollar on other items
    4.Reduction of reliance on the unstable Middle East.
    5.More jobs in the US for those employed in the exploration, extraction and production of CNG

    • Fred Parker

      Talk about something that will put a lot of people to work.!!! It is not clear to me how different the engines would be but they would probably not be as complex as the internal combustion engine would they.. Creating the infrastructure for distribution of the fuel would be a perfect job for the new WPA.Lets get on with it!!!!

  • RingADingDing

    Are they talking about farts?

  • Bob

    An idea about the cost of a home refueling station would have been nice since the article did mention it was available.

  • Sam Popack

    I have l;ots of natural gas

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