AutoGuide News Blog
The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
Compressed natural gas (CNG) makes a lot of sense for those that do a lot of miles in a year, especially for truckers.
Mazda has just unveiled a host of new concepts and up-coming models at the The 43rd Tokyo Motor Show 2013 that includes diesel, natural gas and hybrid technology.
Answering a question nobody was asking, General Motors announced today that it will sell a version of the 10th generation Impala capable of running on gasoline or compressed natural gas (CNG).
A report from the National Research Council states that the U.S. could reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 80 percent by 2050 in cars and trucks.
Customers may begin placing orders for the CNG trucks on March 19 and will be available in standard or longbox configurations with either two- or four-wheel drive.
“The announcement of the bi-fuel Silverado and Sierra has been well-received among customers, which sends a clear message that businesses are looking for alternative fuel options to meet their needs,” said Ed Peper, general manager, GM Fleet and Commercial Operations. “The addition of the full-size bi-fuel pickups to our product portfolio is part of our commitment to offer great products, innovative business solutions and an exceptional customer experience.”
Running on either compressed natural gas (CNG) or gasoline, the trucks are powered by a 6.0-liter V8 that can seamlessly transition between fuels. Doing so will allow for between $5,000 and $10,000 in savings annually, according to GM. Although the trucks are initially more expensive, over time the reduced fuel costs will save money for the businesses that use them.
“Businesses are looking for ways to control their costs while reducing vehicle emissions and becoming less dependent on fluctuating gas prices. The low cost of ownership makes these vehicles a realistic solution,” said Joyce Mattman, director, GM Commercial Product and Specialty Vehicles. “CNG has maintained a significantly lower retail price than either gasoline or diesel. The current average price of CNG is equivalent to $1.89 per gallon of gasoline.”
Ford recently announced the EPA fuel efficiency rating for its electric Focus model. Since it doesn’t burn any gasoline, the number isn’t in miles per gallon (MPG), but was given as miles per gallon gasoline equivalent, or MPGe. A new term to the automotive lexicon, it’s worth exploring exactly what MPGe means and how an MPGe rating is determined, especially as the number of electric cars and plug-in electric hybrids on the roads continues to increase.
Honda is currently the only automaker offering CNG vehicles in the United States. Although it is nice to own an exclusive niche in the vast automotive market, it does have its limitations.
Compressed natural gas stations are uncommon in North America and Honda hopes to change this by installing pumps at its dealers as it pushes plans to double the sales volume of its CNG vehicles to between 4,000 and 5,000 units. Honda is involved in negotiations with California, the biggest CNG market within the U.S., as it hopes to place CNG pumps at two or more Honda dealerships later this year.
According to U.S. vice president for Environmental Business Development Steve Center, “If the [Honda] dealer had a fueling station, it would really reduce some of that concern for the customer. It’s not our place to create infrastructure, but it’s a chicken-and-egg situation and we’re going to have to nurse that egg along.”
Of course, the strategy for these stations are still in a beta phase. Through this project, Honda expects a better understanding of CNG station costs, the volume of vehicles a CNG station can serve, and how many facilities may be established. Honda will work with the dealers to gain the necessary permits, provide financing, and will apply for public incentives as well. Steve Center said, “Something like this helps fill in holes. We want to select a couple of test cases and walk through it.”
Earning the title as the 2012 Green Car of the Year at November’s LA Auto Show, the Honda Civic Natural Gas sedan is priced at $26,155, a $2,100 premium over the Civic hybrid. The Civic Natural Gas is capable of attaining an equivalent 31 mpg and can hold 8 gallons of compressed gas. What’s more, based on findings by the Energy Department, the average cost of CNG per gallon is approximately 65% that of a gallon of regular gasoline. Finally, one of the major perks of owning a CNG Civic is the privilege to use HOV lanes without passengers.
GALLERY: 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas
Dodge has released pricing on their 2012 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty Compressed Natural Gas pickup truck, starting at $47,500 including a $995 destination charge.
The Dodge Ram 2500 HD CNG will go head-to-head with the recently announced Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra HD Pickups with CNG capability. The Ram 2500 HD CNG will be available as a crew cab 4×4 model in either SL or SLT trim level.
Chrysler also announced that the CNG-only range on the Ram 2500 HD will be around 255 miles and the backup supply of gasoline will allow it to travel an additional 367 miles. Under the hood of the Ram HD CNG is a 5.7L Hemi V8 with compressed gas storage tanks and an eight-gallon backup gasoline tank. The truck will automatically switch from CNG to gasoline once the CNG tanks are emptied.
While CNG does offer significant savings, it’s worth mentioning that there are only about 1,500 CNG fueling stations in the US – and only half of those are accessible to the public. If you think remembering which local gas station has diesel is a pain, CNG might not be a great option for you.
Comparatively speaking, the base 2012 Ram 2500 ST crew cab 4×4 with a 5.7L Hemi V8 starts at $36,300. So there is over a $10,000 premium to fetch yourself a CNG variant, while you’ll save about $1.25 per gallon equivalent of gas when using CNG. Worth it? That’s up to you.
GALLERY: 2012 Dodge Ram 2500 Heavy Duty CNG
It’s sales are but a drop in the bucket for Honda, but the Civic GX, recently renamed the NG, might have a chance to grow its market share thanks to efforts by Clean Energy Fuels Corp. to expand U.S. infrastructure for natural gas vehicles.
The fact is, there is so much natural gas available in the U.S. that it’s actually being sold off as an export. Part of the reason is because currently Americans account for 112,000 or less than 1 percent of the world total of natural gas burning vehicles. Most of those are 18-wheel big rigs or fleet vehicles, but the Civic GX accounts for 13,000 since appearing on the American market 13 years ago.
It isn’t hard to understand why there are so few sold: of the roughly 180,000 gas stations across the U.S., there are roughly 1000 that offer natural gas. That means no road trips, no fooling around with the refuel light and little forgiveness if you happen to run the tank dry.
Despite all that, the compressed natural gas (CNG) Civic won the 2012 Green Car of the Year Award, beating out a host of cars including the Mitsubishi i, Ford Focus Electric and Prius V. It also snagged a guaranteed spot until 2015 in California’s coveted HOV lane sticker club, meaning owners may drive solo and skip through ridiculous Californian highway congestion – something that’s sure to make it a popular choice in SoCal.
The Honda won these accolades despite having comparatively poor milage with 27-mpg city, 38-mpg highway and a 31-mpg average, probably because it costs about 30 percent less to fuel them according to Honda. Natural gas costs about $1 to $2 less per gallon-equivalent.
Truthfully, the Civic has nothing to do with Clean Energy Fuels Corp.’s plans for expansion. They’re more more motivated by the crazy fuel volume transport vehicles consumer every year. Rich Kolodziej, president of the trade association NGV America, broke the numbers down in an interview with the Detroit News. If a driver gets an average of 25 mpg and drives 12,000 miles a year, that driver needs about 480 gallons per year. An average truck driver can travel 120,000 miles in a year getting only six miles-per-gallon needs 20,000 gallons of fuel, or as much as almost 42 normal drivers.
Given that there is a surplus of natural gas in the U.S. and that it’s significantly cheaper, installing that infrastructure makes sense. The special few who drive the Civic GX or NG will likely enjoy the benefit of having access to many more fueling stations.
[Source: Detroit News]
In its annual Outlook, ExxonMobil discusses the future of global energy demands and consumption and in this year’s edition, ExxonMobil believes that half of the vehicles on the road in 2040 will be hybrids.
We personally believe hybrids will rule the road long before 2040, especially when you have vehicles like Lincoln‘s 2012 MKZ Hybrid being sold for the same price as its gas-only variant.
Currently hybrid vehicles only make up one-percent of total vehicle sales, but with government fuel economy standards on the rise, more and more manufacturers are developing electric, hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles in order to meet the new standards. ExxonMobil is also predicting that electric vehicles will sport an inflation of $12,000 or so compared to its gas-only counterpart now and in the immediate future.
But we would argue against that, considering how quickly technology has already advanced with electric vehicles and the parts that are being used to build them. Electric vehicles right now carry about a $12,000 inflation compared to a conventional version, so we find it hard to believe that manufacturers won’t find a way to cut costs within the next five years, never mind 30.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has just made it easier to legally convert light- and heavy-duty vehicle conversions to alternative fuels, such as compressed natural gas.
Manufacturers can now more readily sell conversions thanks to an exemption found in a 186-page EPA ruling that overrides previous rules against tampering when converting an engine.
The former rules required alternative-fuel conversion systems to be certified in the same stringent manner to which an original manufacturer would have to comply. This bureaucratic quagmire was difficult and expensive, thus creating a high barrier to entry.
A streamlined testing procedure now makes it simpler to comply. In short, depending on the age of the vehicle to be converted, retrofitted vehicles now only have to pass a graded compliance structure. More details can be seen in the EPA link below.
An expected announcement today by President Barack Obama will outline the federal government’s commitment to buy only advanced technology vehicles by 2015.
Only hybrids, plug-in electrics, and flex-fuel vehicles will be allowed into its present fleet of 600,000 vehicles. The government has already doubled its number of hybrids in keeping with existing mandates.
Full-size SUVs and other vehicles could still be allowed, but they would need to run on E85 ethanol.
Also expected from Obama’s Georgetown University speech today will be a strategy to cut oil imports by one third by 2025, while calling for a substantial increase in fuel economy for vehicles produced from 2017-2025.
The reduction could save the U.S. more than 11 million barrels per day, the White House said, which is the amount the U.S. imported in 2008.
Obama will also ask Congress to increase incentives to assist compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles for consumers, corporate and business fleets.
Today’s announcement will be just one of a long line of transportation energy measures tightening the belt in the face of ever diminishing oil supplies.
Last summer the White House supported a bill that would have approved $4 billion in assistance for CNG vehicles. That bill stalled in the last Congress, but did have some support from Republicans and Democrats.
In October 2009, the president directed federal agencies with 20 or more vehicles to cut fuel usage by 2 percent.
In 2010 the government bought 23,000 fuel-efficient vehicles, of which 9,000 were hybrids. This year the government will buy its first 100 battery electric vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Volt, shown above.
Concerned also with greenhouse gas emissions, a $300 million stimulus bill was approved by Congress in 2009. The White House also intends to finalize the first national fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for commercial trucks, vans and buses.
These are planned to take effect in the 2014 model year and will cover the 2014-18 model years.
[Source: Detroit News]
It won the North American truck of the year award and in the commercial sector, the Transit Connect has been generating a lot of interest over the last year. The Turkish built, small delivery van has been on sale in Europe since 2002, but was only introduced to our market last year. As Ford is retiring its fleet mainstay, the Crown Victoria sedan in 2011, many government agencies and taxi fleet operators are looking at a suitable replacement. With its small size, tight turning radius, significant interior capacity and decent fuel economy, the Transit Connect is seen as a logical alternative to the Vic taxi by some. Recently, the city of Boston announced that it will be adding these vehicles to its taxi fleets in the fall of this year, making it the first major American metropolis to do so.
According to Mark Cohen, Licensing Director for the Boston Police department that issues cab licenses, “we’ve been very impressed with the Transit Connect. The size, shape and configuration make it comfortable for the driver and passengers. It’s the closest thing to a purpose-built vehicle for taxi use that I’ve seen in 25 years.”
Besides space; durability, ease of maintenance and the ability to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) are all high priorities for taxi fleets. In addition to the Transit Connect’s 2.0-liter gas engine, the company will also be offering new pre prep conversions that allow the vehicle to run on CNG or LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas). Even without that, if the Transit Connect proves successful as a taxi, it is likely to boost the average fuel economy of taxi fleets by as much as 30 percent.
[Source: Ford Motor Company]
Every time we set our eyes on the new VW Scirocco (like at the Nitto Tires booth at the Tokyo Auto Salon), we were jealous to say the least that North America will never get this beauty. This decision was made in 2008 by Martin Winterkorn, Volkswagen’s CEO, stating that the Scirocco would negatively affect GTI sales. The sad thing is, we feel that not bringing the Scirocco to America negatively affects overall VW sales. We believe there are plenty of enthusiasts out there that would purchase a Scirocco that wouldn’t even look at any other VW chassis.
Nonetheless, the Scirocco is making splashes worldwide as Volkswagen just announced that they’ll be fielding three Scirocco race car concepts at the Nurburgring 24-hour endurance race starting on May 12. Much like Porsche is working with campaigning their hybrids on the track, VW will be campaigning these race cars with a modified engine to run compressed natural gas (CNG). These CNG engines are 2.0L TSI motors and by running on natural gas they reduce CO2 output by 80-percent over a traditional gasoline-powered motor. Amazingly it still produces 330-hp.
The fastest test time that one of these Sciroccos has achieved is 8:47:335, which is very promising for VW. Overall there is a lot of new technology embedded in this vehicle, showing that times are changing – even on the race track.
We’ll be sure to keep an eye these Sciroccos (and the rest of the field) at the Nürburgring 24 Hour race and report back.