Will Available Natural-Gas Cars Pull Fueling Stations With Them?

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2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas

2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas

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The relationship between natural gas vehicles (NGVs) and natural gas stations is a 'catch-22' situation.

Without the former, companies are reluctant to built more natural gas stations, as the demand won't be there. But without the latter, manufacturers see no reason to produce natural gas vehicles, because customers who can't fill them up won't be interested in buying them.

It only takes one side to make the first move, and according to Pike Research, it looks like the manufacturers are the ones to do it.

As the EPA is revamped its certification process for NGVs, carmakers have started releasing more models.

The 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas, originally available only in a select few states, is now available nationwide. Chrysler has launched the RAM CNG pickup, Ford has released pickups and vans, and GM too has released a natural gas pickup.

Dave Hurst at Pike Research has revised his sales forecast to 20,000 NGVs sold in 2012, over 4,000 up from his previous 2012 forecast, as the selection of new models meets greater demand.

With the catch-22 broken, it's now up to the infrastructure to catch up, with several companies--including GE and Shell--investing in the NGV infrastructure, and even home refueling once again becoming available.

Same route for hydrogen?

The question some will ask is whether carmakers should take the same lead with hydrogen vehicles, given the similar conundrum faced by supporters of hydrogen and fuel-cell vehicles.

Hydrogen's use is currently limited by both vehicle availability and lack of infrastructure. It's a worldwide problem, too. The 2012 London Olympic games might be using a fleet of hydrogen black cabs, but with one refueling station out of action they're having to be taken on a flat-bed truck to refuel 130 miles away.

Germany is making strides to improve the network first, ready for hydrogen-supporting carmakers like Daimler to produce vehicles that use it.

California too is improving its network, with 68 hydrogen stations to appear by 2015. But elsewhere there's still very little in place, and carmakers don't seem to be making the first move either.

Chicken and egg

Ultimately, the success of any alternative fuel needs somebody to make the first move, or a suitable plan put in place that allows the chicken and egg to appear simultaneously.

That appears to be happening to some extent with plug-in vehicles, but with natural gas, hydrogen and others, the process may take a little longer.


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Comments (4)
  1. If there weren't big corporations looking to make a profit with this, I don't think we'd even be pursuing this technology anymore. Why build an infastructure from scratch when electric cars work on one that already exists? And why would you want to spend the trillions it's going to take to start an infastructure during such a turbulent time in the world's economy? Natural gas is no solution for the future, the methods used to drill it up means natural gas is actually doing more harm then good. And I wouldn't want either NG or hydrogen, I don't want to drive around with a tank of compressed fuel, and I'm sick of fueling stations. I want to charge EVs, it's safer and cleaner.

  2. Given your statement, the same goes for battery electric. Without corps. looking to profit, the charging station infrastructure would not exist. The one this does not hold true for is the bio-fuel industry, because it is predominantly low-tech.

    Safer and cleaner than NG, most likely. Safer and cleaner than H2... safer... ???, cleaner... definitely not.


  3. With Natural Gas, you can at least fueling at home. Hydrogen is just dangerous...

    with limited range due to lack of fueling stations, a plugin hybrid, EREV or pure EV are better choices...

  4. You can fuel at home with H2; just run it through the gas lines.

    As dangerous as getting electrocuted by BEV's.

    All at one point had/have limited range. The question is which infrastructure(s) will be built. With one you get all, with the second you get egg roll. [election]


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