Its about time! Natural gas prices are at record lows due to the shale gas drilling boom and this abundent clean burning source of energy is finally starting to get the attention of North American auto makers.
In a recent National Post article, Mark Hanson, an analyst at investment research firm Morningstar is quoted as saying the use of natural gas instead of oil based gasoline is “definately starting to take off”. He states further that “The economics seem to work, its just a question of what pace” the necessary infrastructure will take to develop.
Oddly enough natural gas vehicles or compressed natural gas (“CNG”) vehicles have been produced by every car manufacturer in the world, and sold in every market in the world except for the United States and Canada. Here CNG is left to the aftermarket. Government incentives cover a good portion of the cost of converting existing gasoline vehicles to CNG. Some of the larger commercial fleets in Canada and North America have already taken advantage of the numerous benefits of CNG. With car manufacturers offering CNG direct from the factory, consumers are more likely to choose natural gas as their preferred transportation energy source.
Infrastructure has always been the reason for lack of development which is a bit odd. In Canada at least, most homes are heated by natural gas. A robust pipeline network for natural gas runs down every street in every city in Canada. Installing a natural gas compression station at any gas station in Canada is simply not the issue. Whether the gas station wants to invest in doing so is the real question, and it creates the “chicken and egg” scenario. Consumers are more likely to purchase CNG cars knowing natural gas stations are widely distributed, while gas stations are likely to build stations if there are enough CNG customers.
With car manufacturers offering a CNG option direct from the manufacturer to consumers, governments should cancel conversion incentives and direct more of these incentive dollars by providing or increasing incentives for the installation of natural gas compression stations at gas stations throughout North America… or simply mandate that gas stations must offer alternative energy choices, including natural gas and electric re-charge stations.
National Post: Cheap natural gas makes inroads as US vehicle fuel