Naturally Gassy: General Motors to Develop Compressed Natural Gas Engines

By Jacob Brown | July 05, 2011
While traveling through a metropolitan area, spotting a bus or commercial vehicle powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) isn’t too difficult. As a result of rapidly fluctuating oil prices, the cheaper, more environmentally friendly fuel source has become a staple for municipalities fighting oil prices that have soared as high as $147.27 during the summer of 2008 and are currently around $95 per barrel. Following that lead, General Motors recently announced plans to create CNG-powered engines for its automotive lineup as it moves forward with alternative fuels. GM said it plans to have engines as small as 0.5-liter in displacement powered by natural gas. Currently, the only mainstream CNG-powered vehicle on sale is the Honda Civic Natural Gas, so it's possible that a Chevrolet Cruze CNG might be one of the first vehicles to receive an engine from the new powertrain lineup. Today, there are about 900 natural gas filling stations and 120,000 CNG vehicles around the nation—tiny numbers compared to traditional gas stations and vehicles. With new hydraulic fracturing techniques that are able to extract the fuel from shale beneath the ground, experts say that the U.S. has enough reserves for the next 100 years.
As the price of gas currently averages $3.57 per gallon in the U.S., Bill Scalzi, head of Metro Taxi in West Haven, Connecticut told Reuters that his CNG-powered Ford Transit Connect test fleet is fueling up at about $1.50 less per gallon. While the price of a barrel of foreign oil seems to lower in price every time initiatives crop up to lessen the country’s dependence on foreign oil, compressed natural gas could finally be the solution that pushes through. In April, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced the Natural Gas Act that, if passed later this year, would offer a $0.50 per gallon tax incentive and subsidize the cost of building the CNG cars and refueling stations. Source: Reuters