Do Electric And Natural-Gas Cars Compete Against Each Other?

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2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas

2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas

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We've been thinking a lot about natural-gas fueled vehicles, for reasons that will become clear in due course.

Writing about green cars can occasionally be awkward, because there are different audiences for diesels versus hybrids, for plug-in electric cars, and for other types of alternative fuels.

The purchase motivations that drive buyers of plug-in electric cars may be very different from those that might lead someone to prefer to run a car on natural gas.

Yet much of the general media seems to assume it's gasoline versus everything else, and that all of the alternative powertrain technologies compete against each other.

Which we don't think is quite right.

So here are some questions for you, our readers--especially the large number of you who avidly follow and advocate for plug-in cars, and the smaller number of natural-gas fans:

  • Do you think that electric cars and natural-gas vehicles compete for the same buyers?
  • What are the motivations that might prompt someone to consider buying a 2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas, or any other NGV?
  • And what challenges does each type of vehicle face among the public, and in comparison to each other?

We'd like to hear what you think, to help us shape our coverage in the weeks to come.

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

As always, keep it polite (and where you cite data, try to provide a link!)

Thanks in advance for your help.


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Comments (20)
  1. NG seems to be gaining acceptance in fleet senecios. Taxis, garbage trucks, and transit bus where fueling occurs at fleet depot. A NG compressor & high pressure storage tank provide cheap transportation tax-free fuel. It almost seems that NG is an alternative to diesel vs. an alt. to gasoline fuel?

    Think it really comes down to local infrastructure available and fuel costs.

    An owner of passenger car like NG Civic faces similar issues as an electric car with only a Fast Charger. Being aware on the next fueling station & vehicles range are always forefront in mind. The costs of fueling via NG and Fast Charging at home are both not practical. If EV has Level 2 charging, then home fueling becomes a no-brainier.

  2. Interestingly CNG and EVs share some of the same problems

    -low energy density energy storage devices that potentially eat away at interior space. That problem is actually bigger for CNG than BEVs
    -both systems have substantially longer refill times than gasoline though CNG beats fastcharging of course
    -both systems add substantial extra upfront cost compared to gasoline
    -both systems come with the need to fill up more frequently

    With better battery technology BEVs will no doubt offer the more attractive ownership experience but for now CNG might be more attractive for many since there is no range constraint. If GM could really shave $10K of the price of its EREV technology that might sidetrack CNG as well.

  3. • Do they compete? Yes, at least in my state.

    • Motivations? Primarily pocketbook. CNG is cheaper than gasoline, and my state gives CNG vehicles a whopping $2,500 tax incentive --but only a paltry $605 for EVs. Much further down the list for consumers in my area are concerns for the environment or national security.

    • Challenges? The advantages --and disadvantages-- of either drivetrain. See my:

  4. NG competed with EV for me. When I began looking 5 years ago, EV wasn't the option that it is now. Concerns have been similar for both, but EVs are improving while NG stagnates:
    + Refueling: having NG into my home for heating allows home-fueling, but elsewhere was more worrisome. NG and EV stations are sparse, but there's no NG parallel to a friend's 120V outlet in a pinch. (My employer has an NG station onsite for a small fleet of NG vehicles, but can't sell the NG to me. They're putting EV charging stations onsite soon for employees with EVs, but the electricity won't be free.)
    + Resale: the EV could be tough enough, but no one wants a used NG Civic
    + Cargo space: some EVs are OK (e.g. Leaf, Model S)
    + Range: NG may win, but see refueling

  5. This is actually hard for me to answer because I've already written off natural gas. I don't want to ride around with compressed fuel, I don't want another clunky ICE under the hood, and we have to stop fracking, cracking the earths crust to get at a fuel is an insanely bad idea. I don't think EVs compete with NGVs because NGVs don't offer any significant change and the infrastructure will be more costly to install.

  6. Actually, both EV and NG cars use the exact same fuel with one major difference. When the NG car is not being used, no fuel is being consumed. Even when the EV is not being used, its power supply is still running/feeding the grid. If you are going to criticizing fracking, try presenting some support to your position instead of parroting environmentalists.

  7. I am not "parroting" environmentalists, being interested in green energy I did my own research and formed my own opinion, never assume your correct Randall. And no EVs and NGVs are not the same NG has almost everything in common with gasoline. EVs draw from the grid when they need it, my house is constantly drawing from the grid weather I have an EV or not so I'm not as concerned about plugging-in especially as I do intend to go solar.

  8. I live in Manitoba Canada where the power is mostly (98.5%) hydro generated with a little wind. Because our power is clean and renewable, it shares nothing with natural gas fuel.

  9. I don't think CNG and EV compete. CNG is still an ICE based vehicle. Many EV supporters here don't consider anything with ICE. Some of them don't even like PHEV/EREV type of vehicle. However, I think CNG has its place. 1. it is cheaper alternative (no gas tax). 2. It is domestically source. 3. Cleaner than gasoline. 4. Easy for large commercial vehicles to move to this platform (however, I am NOT sure it would be cheaper once "gas tax" is applied).

    CNG has similar infrastructure issue as EV charging station. Availability of the stations are limited and home refilling is expensive.

    But I do think CNG based EREV/PHEV can be even cheaper to operate. BEVs can also benefit from a CNG based heating system in extreme cold weather.

  10. Do you think that electric cars and natural-gas vehicles compete for the same buyers?

    Yes to the extent that people looking to break from gasoline might also consider biodiesel and pedal power.

    What are the motivations that might prompt someone to consider buying a 2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas, or any other NGV?

    No idea. Honda Civic is terrible enough on its own, but to make it natural gas to boot? Yuck.

    And what challenges does each type of vehicle face among the public, and in comparison to each other?

    Both have many good reasons to doubt they will be part of the future. But in the case of electric, the performance and potential are unlimited. Natural gas is just gas in another form.

  11. It is should not be an either/or question but instead it is merely another choice that road transport users have.

    In the short term CNG makes big sense for local fleet depot based operations, and there must be a sufficient market in that alone to make sense of CNG. This market will also be business case driven, it is difficult to get too emotional about a commercial vehicle.

    EVs are starting to make sense for the affluent suburban dwelling commuter, which again is a massive market.

    So it's horses for courses, not one or tother.

  12. No. One can be renewable, the other cannot.

  13. CAN is the operative word.

  14. Have been following this site for a while. Also been looking to buy a fuel efficient car for a while. Personally never interested in Natural Gas cars but have been following them. I have to say for most people I.e. 80% the answer is NO - NG does not compete with EV cars. I have 4 colleagues who have bought NG cars just to get into the carpool lanes in the past 2 years and another 2 who are probably about to buy NG cars. All these NG people find the extra benefit of lower cost per gallon but at the same time about 20% less efficiency per weight. I have another 4 coworkers who have purchased pure Electric Plug in cars and another 2 who are looking. Neither of the two groups considered the other comperable.

  15. Another thing is that two groups NG vs EV have different views and reasons to buy their cars. The NG folks are much more practical and like the conventional fill up. They are more utilitarian in nature and have the main objective to get the carpool lane commute in CA. The environmental and cost benefits are just extra. The EV people are more idealistic currently. Save the environment but also would like a nice cool cutting edge car. These EV folks all used to drive priuses or prior high efficiency cars. In either camp, the infrastructure currently is lacking and they both work around it.

  16. Sorry few last comments. All coworkers I am mentioning are physicians. Takes some disposable $$ and concerted effort (possibly more education? or at least conscious engagement) to buy a cutting edge technology car. The NG buyers actually did NOT spend more than ICE cars. All but 1 NG buyer purchased their cars used. All the EV buyers purchased new. Only one Tesla, then you name the plug in car model and the EV crown either bought one, used to have one, tried one out or seriously considered it.

  17. I do not see EV and CNG as competing. I have been working in both arenas for close to 20 years. I continue to see CNG's/LNG's strength in high fuel usage fleets from the cargo van up to the class 8 truck. Those fleets also use sedans and the Civic is an excellent CNG sedan with great mileage.

    The EV market is driven by the light duty commuter vehicle up to the urban delivery truck (it is at the urban delivery truck where their may ultimately be some competition).

    Natural gas has a more extensive track record if you take the heavy duty fleets such as refuse and transit bus into consideration. Paybacks, O&M are fairly well known. As for criteria pollutants from the tailpipe,conventional vehicles are now very clean too. We need both!

  18. Aside from all the potential problems with CNG vehicles, the most efficient way to us NG is in generating plants to replace coal, and charge EVs.

    begins with driving the most efficient vehicles on the market. Not only that, but having your environmental conscious influence your purchase 100%.
    If there is a car more efficient than mine, I'm interested in upgrading, gas-powered or not.
    However, for those who harness their own electricity, electric powered is unbeatable :D

  20. I'm just gonna buy a used Volt and convert it to NG. That actually would be a fun project !! LP is currently pretty easy. But NG is cleaner and performs better.
    "It's not about strongest nor smartest, it's about adapting" or somethin' like that. And these types of "adaptations"/engine mods can be fun !! Let's go. NG has to be more readily available - which it can be. The volt platform is the hybrid to beat. The Fast and the . . . cleanest ?!! - what could be better ? . . . a brand new Cadillac ELR converted to NG - ha - with a light squirt of NOS for that, every now and then, oh my . . . very sweet dreams. And for now, I will convert a Volt.

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