Natural gas is cheap and plentiful, and last year comprised close to 80 percent of the fuel Florida Power & Light Co. used to produce electricity.
So why aren’t we pumping natural gas, which costs more than $1 a gallon less than gasoline and is also cleaner, into our vehicles?
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CNG is an alternative to gasoline that’s made by compressing natural gas to less than 1 percent of its volume at standard atmospheric pressure. Consisting mostly of methane, CNG is odorless, colorless and tasteless. It’s drawn from domestically drilled natural gas wells or in conjunction with crude oil production.
Natural gas powers more than 12 million vehicles worldwide on the road today. Only about 250,000 of these are being used in the U.S. The average growth rate in the U.S. shows a 3.7 percent increase per year since 2000, as contrasted with a booming global growth rate of 30.6 percent per year.
Expanding the numbers of CNG fueling stations would allow for the increase of CNG vehicles on U.S. roads. There are 12,000 around the world, yet the U.S. claims about 500 public stations. New technologies and greater demand mean that the number of new stations is climbing rapidly.
Want to fuel your vehicle with natural gas?
Palm Beach County has no compressed natural gas stations, but at least three are slated to be open by the end of 2014.
Motorists who don’t live close to a CNG station can have a natural gas pump known as a Phill Unit installed in a garage or outdoor area. The cost is about $6,000 and works only if you have natural gas service at the house already.
Many standard vehicles can be converted to run on both natural gas and gasoline. That option can cost $3,000 to $12,000. Typically, certified installers will only perform a CNG conversion on new or nearly new vehicles. CNG conversion kits must meet stringent Environmental Protection Agency standards.
The CNG Honda Civic has been on the market since 1998, and is the nation’s only natural gas passenger car manufactured new, although many cars can be converted to run on natural gas. The 2012 model costs $26,305. But used CNG vehicles can be purchased on eBay for much less.
Numerous manufacturers offer factory-built natural gas trucks, step-vans, transit buses and school buses. There are fewer options for consumers who need light-duty cars, vans and pickup trucks — but the market is starting to turn. The Civic has been joined in the market by CNG versions of the Chevrolet Silverado 2500, Dodge Ram 2500 CNG and Ford F-250 pickups, as well as Chevy Savana vans and Ford Transit and Transit Connect vans. More options are coming soon.
Sources: CNGNow, Wise Gas