Monday, November 18, 2013

Alternative Fuels: Is there a Solution? Chapter 2 CNG

CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) is methane compressed at high pressure that can be used in place of gasoline. CNG combustion produces primarily carbon dioxide emissions instead of carbon monoxide, which is toxic. CNG is stored in a compressed state instead of liquefied and thus requires a tank that can hold up to 3,600 PSI. 
CNG Tank

It is safer than other fuels in the event of a spill, because natural gas is lighter than air and disperses quickly when released. CNG may be found above oil deposits, or may be collected from landfills or waste water treatment plants where it is known as biogas.

Bi-fuel CNG Ford F-150
CNG is used in traditional gasoline-powered vehicles that have been manufactured for CNG use, either dedicated systems (which is the only source of fuel for the car), or bi-fuel (where is has been added on to your regular gasoline engine and you switch back and forth between the two sources). In response to high fuel prices and environmental concerns, CNG is starting to be used also in commercial transportation like buses and trains.
Pros to owning and operating a CNG vehicle:
  • Even though it is no longer 63 cents a gallon, it is still cheaper than gasoline per gallon

  • It is more environmentally friendly and if you have a dedicated CNG vehicle, you can legally drive in the HOV lane (car pool lane) on the freeway alone
  • Park for free in downtown Salt Lake City
This license plate sticker gives you special driving privillages like HOV lane and free parking downtown
Cons to owning and operating a CNG vehicle:
  • The tanks take up space in your vehicle, which could be a problem when loading for a long trip
No storage space for traveling

  • Very few stations have CNG pumps. You have to plan your trips accordingly around these few stations and hope that they are not out of order. Questar gas has a small staff of maintenance workers who can’t make it out there to fix every pump that is malfunctioning. If you have a dedicated CNG vehicle you are pretty much stranded at that point.

  • The maintenance for your CNG vehicle is expensive! Very few mechanics or technicians are familiar with CNG vehicles. Finding an honest mechanic with that knowledge can be difficult. Parts are expensive to replace. You are looking in the thousand-dollar range just to replace the part.
  • 20% less horse power when running on CNG
  • Diminishing driving privileges
In spite of the cons, the number of vehicles in the world using CNG has grown steadily at about 30 percent per year and still remains the number one choice for alternative fuel shoppers.

After this rant do you still want to buy a CNG vehicle? Even though I do not recommend it I promised to not hold anything back.

To convert:

            SnoMotion - Salt Lake (801) 281-4766
            Semi Services Inc - Salt Lake (801) 521-0360
            Ashton Motors Kaysville Blair (801) 336-6678 or Jeff (801) 628-0174
            Booker Hatch – Layton (801) 865-5695

Cost to convert a regular gasoline car to a bi-fuel CNG is $12,500.00 As of June 4, 2008. It may be more expensive now.

To purchase an already installed bi-fuel CNG vehicle:

            Semi Service Inc. – Salt Lake Call Joan (801) 209-8979
(This is where I bought my truck from)
            Auto Excellence – 1320 West 7800 South, West Jordan, Marty (801) 301-7499
(Auto Excellence is the biggest CNG Dealer in the valley. You’ll probably find what you’re looking for there. Give Marty a call or look at his website 
            Canyon Motors – 610 W. Center Street. Provo (801) 356-1750
(Canyon motors mostly sells bi-fuel minivans if that is what you’re looking for than more power to you. The other dealers mostly sale trucks and cars.)

Kevin Frazier of CNG Utah – Orem (801) 224-2499


  1. It doesn't sound like it's worth it to switch right now. But, maybe in 10 years it could be. Once it's more widely accepted, I bet that there would be more refueling stations and mechanics would be more familiar with it. Also, I bet that the costs of parts would come down as they start to manufacture them in larger batches. Either way, I'm not switching today, but I'll reevaluate in a decade or two. Thanks for the good info!

  2. I always feel bad for the people with dedicated fuel. I think it's nice to have fueling diversifying a financial portfolio.

  3. Unlike liquid fuel, which consistently holds about the same volume of fuel across a broad range of conditions, compressed natural gas (CNG) can expand and contract significantly depending on temperature. I'm not switching it either.
    American CNG