What is the Best Fuel for Natural Gas-Powered Cars?

Fuel-intensive fleets that travel many miles each day have been using natural gas for years. This would include fleets of taxicabs, transit and school buses, airport shuttles, construction vehicles, garbage trucks, delivery trucks and public works vehicles. Fleets are especially suited to natural gas because a larger volume of vehicles makes it more economical to convert vehicles or to purchase them outright. Plus, fleet vehicles are centrally maintained, making refueling easy and reliable.

The advantages of natural gas vehicles (NGVs) are well-known: The biggest being the carbonfootdrastic reduction of harmful emissions. NGVs can achieve up to a 93% reduction in carbon monoxide emissions, 33 % reduction in emissions of various oxides of nitrogen and a 50 % reduction in reactive hydrocarbons. NGVs are also safer; the fuel storage tanks on an NGV are thicker and stronger than gasoline or diesel tanks. Natural gas costs are lower than gasoline. Natural gas generally costs one-third less than gasoline at the pump.

NGVs have lower maintenance costs. Because natural gas burns so cleanly, it results in less wear and tear on the engine and extends the time between tune-ups and oil changes.

Recently, there have been some new innovations in heavy trucks that use natural gas as fuel; either compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG). Several companies have already built heavy-duty natural gas trucks: Navistar, Freightliner, Petervilt, Volvo.

So far, compressed natural gas seems to be “winning.” There are more CNG filling stations, and it is easier to pump and to store. LNG is a more energy-dense fuel than CNG, (meaning your truck can go more distance on a fill-up), but LNG must be stored at –260 degree Fahrenheit or it will evaporate as pure methane into the air.

Now there is also a third option: Primus Green Energy, a tiny tech company, thinks they’ve found a better way. They’ve built a pilot plant to perfect the technology of taking natural gas and converting it into gasoline. Turning natural gas into gasoline – and then 75% of vehicles in the United States can already use it immediately.

This process has been tried before. Mobil developed similar technology as long ago as 1979. However, it was extremely energy-intensive – and far too expensive to do large-scale. Primus says they’ve been able to improve on the earlier process to make it more energy-efficient. It’s too soon to know if Primus Green Energy can get a plant up and running, but the technology for turning natural gas into gasoline has been around for 30 years and it’s a good time get it going again.