The ongoing search for an sustainable, alternative fuel has been a top concern for governments for many years.
With the hybrid technology being a success in the US markets, a wider technological application has been sought in this area. With more and more fuels such as ethanol, bio-diesel and hydrogen, added to the alternative fuel list of hybrid cars, the option of choosing Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is also not ruled out.
CNG has been widely used in buses and heavy load carriers in many parts of the world. Yet it has not dominated the car market. The difficulty of converting a conventional engine to a CNG-compatible one has been a serious concern for the manufactures as well as the car owners.
CNG contains a large percentage of methane (CH4) along with traces of other hydrocarbons. It is extracted from natural gas, which is produced by the decomposition of animal and plant wastes.
CNG as future fuel for vehicles promises a lot of benefits. Being a cleaner fuel than the petroleum fuels, CNG promises low emissions, and it can be compressed under high pressure, between 2000 and 3600psi making it easy to store in cylinders.
How does the world respond to CNG alternative? Worldwide examples show that the feasibility of using CNG in all types of vehicle is not under question. Argentina and Brazil are the two countries with maximum number of CNG vehicles, approximately 1,460,000 and 1,230,000 respectively. Here CNG is widely used in buses and trucks. Also a ‘Blue-network’ of CNG refilling stations is being developed on the major highways of Southern Cone of Latin America, including Chile and Bolivia. In the East, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India are the main players offering CNG fleet to their transport network. Pakistan is world’s third largest consumer of CNG. In the Middle East and Africa, Egypt tops with more than 63,000 CNG-run vehicles on its road.
The option of using CNG in cars has hit the market with many important players emerging with CNG-run vehicles. The Honda Civic GX is the first of its type. The Civic GX has been awarded as the cleanest internal combustion engine on the earth by the EPA. Another cool fact about the CNG cars is the possibility of refilling the gas from your own home. With the help of Phill, Honda offers this facility to its customers to get the fuel refilled from their home gas line.
The only hurdle in the use of CNG in vehicles is the cost of conversion of the engine. If proper support is offered by the public and private agencies in order to promote such an environmental-friendly fuel, consumers all around the world will be motivated to use this technolgoy, thus contributing to a cleaner environment and saving of fossil fuels. Already a scheme is on in the city of Santa Cruz allowing the CNG car owners to recover up to 60% of the conversion costs with the help of a ‘free-CNG’ vouchers offered to them. Apart from these, a lot of investment has to be made in the R& D along with creating awareness in the consumers about the necessity and viablility of converting their vehicles into a CNG one.