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Is CNG Finally Ready for Prime Time?

Fuel is cheap, plentiful, so why isn’t it getting wider use?

by on Oct.09, 2012

The Ram 2500 Heavy Duty is one of the rare vehicles offering a factory CNG package.

Chrysler has landed orders from 19 states to supply Ram 2500 Heavy Duty pickup trucks running on compressed natural gas.

The move comes as 22 states form a coalition to promote the use of the cheap, plentiful and relatively clean fuel. The coalition has told U.S. automakers that if they build vehicles capable of running on CNG orders will run anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 annually.

“That should be enough to get them to move,” said John Hickenlooper, the governor of Colorado which has been one of the states taking the lead in the effort to promote the use of CNG.

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Compressed natural gas is gaining a lot of attention lately.  Traditionally used for home heating as well as industrial applications, CNG is winning converts even in the environmental movement.  While it is considered a fossil fuel its chemical structure contains less carbon than petroleum or coal and that means that in a motor vehicle it produces 60 to 90% fewer smog-causing pollutants and 30 to 40% less greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.


Guest Opinion: Natural Gas as The “Buy American” Energy Alternative

One fossil fuel that might make sense even to “greenies”?

by on Jul.13, 2012

A rare public CNG filling stations near Los Angeles.

Best known as the founder and former Chairman and CEO of Subaru of America, Inc., Harvey Lamm is the co-author — with Syd Havely — of the recently-published book, “Getting Traction—The Subaru Story and the Entrepreneurial Mindset.”

At a time when other executives might be enjoying retirement, however, Lamm has begun a new career as Chairman of VNG.Co., a firm hoping to develop a nationwide, retail-oriented CNG fueling network to support fleets, including commercial and government agencies. Lamm is far from the only proponent of CNG and a slowly growing number of manufacturers, notably including Honda, are lending support with new products able to take advantage of the clean and relatively inexpensive fuel. This opinion piece was adapted from Lamm’s new book, now available through

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One can’t turn on the TV or read the paper without hearing that either the electric car is the vehicle of the future or that rumors of its troubles—technical, mechanical, financial, or sales—are overblown.  All may be true. Technology is a moving target. There is no ‘finish line’ or silver bullet that we can see now for how the nation’s 250 million cars now on the road burning 350 million gallons of gasoline a day or the approximately 15 million cars and light trucks being added each year will be powered.  One thing is certain, though—relying on gasoline alone or electric alone or even hybrid electrics won’t get us to energy independence.  But there is an alternative fuel that will, in combination with oil and gas and electrics and hybrids, and that is a fuel source America is blessed with in abundance—natural gas.


GM, Chrysler Launch Natural Gas Pickup Options

Proponents push for shift to cheap, plentiful petrol alternative.

by on Mar.06, 2012

Supplier IMPCO Automotive will handle conversions of GM vans and pickups to use low-cost, cleaner CNG.

It’s a good week for those who’d like to see American motorists shift from imported oil to the plentiful domestic supply of natural gas.  Chrysler plans to announce today that it will offer an NGV option for its big Ram pickup – following the lead of General Motors which will offer bi-fuel packages for both its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.

Momentum has slowly been growing for natural gas power after years of neglect.  That appears to reflect several factors – notably the increased availability of the fuel from domestic sources, the fact that CNG produces less CO2 per mile than petroleum products, and the rapidly rising cost of gasoline.

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Until recently, Honda was the only maker marketing natural gas-powered vehicles – notably a dedicated version of the 2012 Civic model. But the list could grow rapidly – though the biggest challenge remains finding ready locations to fill up.

That’s led GM to go the bi-fuel route with the heavy-duty versions of its Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups.  Motorists will be able to choose between CNG and regular gasoline on the fly.  When one tank runs dry they’ll be able to hot a switch and keep going, something that should be doubly appealing to work truck users who want to hold down costs but avoid service disruptions.


Revisiting the Honda Civic Hybrid

Beauty is in the eyes – and pocketbook – of the beholder.

by on Dec.12, 2011

The 2012 Civic Hybrid continues to use Honda's "mild" IMA hybrid system.

You can barely read the auto section of your local newspaper, never mind the enthusiast magazines, without getting immersed in the new world of “electrification.”  That is, of course, a fancy term for what most folks would call battery power.  And regular readers of know that I’ve been making it a point to look at some of the latest offerings to use batteries in their bid to go clean and green.

This time, however, I wanted to spend some time with a relatively conventional HEV model, rather than a pure “BEV” or “PHEV.”  And, oh yeah, in case you’ve forgotten, a PHEV is a plug-in hybrid, a BEV is battery-only which means it has to be pluggable, and HEV is hybrid gas+electric power.

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So, here is a closer look at my time behind the wheel of the latest-generation Honda Civic Hybrid.  My fellow auto scribes have been beating up on Honda’s newest Civic because they perceive the interior trim doesn’t meet their collective mob standards. Well, most of them have a lot more opportunity than I do to eyeball all the competitors in the 2011/12 market place, so I can’t really challenge them on their views.