Are There ‘Alternative’ Alternative Fuel Vehicles in Our Future?

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Bob BestPosted by:
Bob Best
Energy and Sustainability Services

With all the talk about electric vehicles (EVs) and charging stations, compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles have quietly snuck up and are passing EVs as “alternative” alternative fuel vehicles.

A story in the Chicago Tribune by Julie Wernau on July 29th reports that there will be twice as many CNG vehicles on American as EVs by the end of 2012. What happened?

With the boom in natural gas fracking opening up a huge natural gas supplies, the price of natural gas has plummeted to the point where both businesses and individuals are converting to CNG vehicles.

Since CNG takes about three times the storage space of an equivalent energy amount of gasoline, the common view was that trucks would be the natural application, since they can easily accommodate larger fuel tanks.  Also, with more predictable routes, trucks would be less dependent on networks of CNG stations.  But, it now looks like individuals are getting on the CNG bandwagon.  Honda actually offers a Civic powered by CNG.

As Wernau reports, the Obama administration unveiled a vision for over 1 million EVs on American roads by 2015.  Today that number stands at only 65,500 and “Some experts wonder whether the U.S. chose the wrong technology to support.”

The answer is that there is probably a place for both and, possibly, other concepts. 

It looks like the fueling stations of the future may need to offer more than one alternative for alternative fuel vehicles.

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