Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why I'm Convinced Natural Gas Vehicles Are Here to Stay

Ways you can tell natural gas vehicles are catching on…

•Fleet managers are becoming true believers. Natural gas vehicles are being brought into fleets all over North America in passenger cars, cargo vans, medium- and heavy-trucks, and specialty application vehicles.

Paul Condran, equipment maintenance manager for City of Culver City in California, and 2009 winner of the best green fleet award, had this to say about NGV benefits: “There are no limitations in range (if properly specified), fuel is abundant, and there are over 2,500 CNG – Compressed Natural Gas – stations throughout California and more in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and many, many other states. Natural Gas has been around for over 150 years. It’s safe, viable, cost effective, extremely clean (96% cleaner that gasoline or diesel) and 100% removes us from oil dependency. CNG is also very safe, in fact, the US, Canada and most of Europe have been heating our homes, drying our clothes, and using it to cook on for decades and decades.”

•Harry Reid and other U.S. senators are listening to oil-tycoon-turned-natural-gas-icon T. Boone Pickens’ advocacy for adopting the Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Accountability Act. This bill would bring rebates between $10,000 and $64,000 for the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles, grants of up to $50,000 to install natural gas refueling stations, and other provisions benefiting the NGV industry. The word is, this bill could adopted by the end of this year or into next, as one of the alternatives to the gone by-by climate change bill.

•T. Boone Pickens is one of the owners of Clean Energy, a Seal Beach, Calif., based company that is laying out the fueling station infrastructure across the country, station by station. These usually involve contracts with municipalities, airports, transit authorizes, and public agencies to make sure accessible natural gas stations are available for commercial accounts. This will take a while to make its way cross country, but the company regularly has announcements on new contracts signed.

•There’s a $4,000 federal tax credit on alternative fuel vehicles through the end of this year (though that could be extended later on). CNG vehicles are the only “commercially available alternative fuel vehicles that qualify for the incentive,” according to EPA and DOT. That means flex-fuel vehicles are not eligible, even though there’s many of them on the road.

•Landi Renzo, an Italian company that started in 1953 and now has 33% of the alternative fuel global market, decided to set up shop in the US this year. While visiting them, I asked how this happened. Andrea Landi, president of Landi Renzo USA described how his grandfather started the company in 1954 when gasoline was hard to find in the postwar environment. It wasn’t until this year that the need for natural gas and propane powered vehicles, especially NGVs, grew enough to make it worthwhile to enter the U.S. market, and Torrance, California, made much sense to reach key fleet and OEM clients, Landi said. The company is working with clients such as OEMs to build advanced NGVs for use in fleet applications. Not long after the gas price spike in the US, the company started getting a lot of calls asking them to move to America.

•Global Industry Analysts, Inc. says the world will see 28.7 million units of natural gas vehicles on roads by the year 2015. Primary factors fingered to drive this growth include economic and promotional support extended by governments, volatility in oil prices, technology innovations that further the practicality of NGVs as an alternative fuel vehicle technology, and focus of the automotive industry on cleaner vehicle concepts.

Stay tuned for a few of my concerns about NGVs...

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