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.

 

Technology Meets Efficiency: The Country’s First Automated Transmission with Spark-Ignited Natural Gas Engine

The landscape of American manufacturing is rapidly changing—in a good way. It seems almost every day there’s a new advancement in technology and a novel use for manufacturers’ innovation. We are all collectively creating an industry that is as competitive as it is impressive.

Two great areas of technology and innovation—and of major industrial advancement—are in transportation and natural gas. Vehicle makers and their suppliers are seeing more demand than in a very long time, and America’s natural gas boom is generating goinggreenemployment and making manufacturing better and less expensive.

Combine the two areas, and you’ve really got a winning combo. That’s what Eaton and Cummings Westport did, recently announcing their offering of the first automated transmission to be paired with a spark-ignited natural gas engine in North America.

The transmission features a powertrain package combining the Eaton UltraShift PLUS automated transmission with the Cummins Westport ISX12 G engine. According to this article, the product will meet the market demand, based on “the interest in alternative fuels driving more fleets to integrate natural gas engines into their portfolio,” while offering “best-in-class” technology. More and more people are seeking natural gas paired with automated transmissions, and this product does just that.

Available mid-2014 for limited application release, the transmission offers “maximum power capacity, superior acceleration and low-speed maneuverability.” Other features include:

  • A robust power band at 1500-1800 rpm
  • Peak torque at 1200 rpm
  • Heavy-duty natural gas engine available with horsepower of 320 hp to 400 hp (239-298 kW) with 1450 lb-ft (1966 N”¢m) peak torque
  • Hill Start Aid, preventing rollbacks and reducing risk while simplifying operations
  • Intelligent shift selection software

The product serves as an excellent example of American manufacturers coming together to offer a technologically-advanced product that utilizes the benefits of natural gas, meets market demand, and offers greater efficiency.