CNG- The Only Alternative Over the past hundred plus years the world has relied on oil as the mainstay fuel for vehicles, and this dependence has backed us into a corner. Many people have introduced solutions to this dependence, but unfortunately, none have been put into real world use. These solutions included Electricity, Hydrogen, Alcohol, and many others. All have been analyzed and scrutinized greatly since their introduction and many have great benefits over oil but none have been put into use on a large scale.
This is the result mainly of large oil companies and auto manufacturers, which have heavy weight in politics, who are very complacent to make a large switch. This complacency has caused the world to continually use and process oil nonstop depleting nearly all reserves worldwide. Now the projected life span of oil has been changed to less than fifty years left before all oil has been consumed. People are finally realizing this fact and want to make a change but they do not know where to start. CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) is another alternative to gas that has not been addressed nearly as much as other solutions.
CNG has many benefits and nearly no negatives that give it perfect reason to be the next fuel for our world to rely on. The first alternative that received rave reviews but then lost steam quickly off was that of Electric Vehicles that ran solely on electricity. These cars sounded great for many reasons. The fuel was much cheaper and completely clean. The cars were also touted as the only vehicles that could, “Plug into the Sun” (John Felt, Ford Motor Company). People bought into this idea and felt they had finally found the solution to their energy needs, but unfortunately many cons showed up quickly.
Electric engines did not produce much horsepower resulting in their use in only compact cars and nothing larger. This reason alone made many change their minds because electric vehicles could never be used as “work” trucks or even as a semi. Then people also learned that to charge an electric battery cell to full capacity took at least four hours. The final reason that proved to be the clincher was that electric vehicles could not travel more than one hundred miles on a full charge. These reasons all combined to cause people to lose interest very quickly.
Once the public lost interest auto manufacturers, except for the Japanese, scrapped all future plans for electric vehicles. The up and comer new alternative to follow electricity was the use of Hydrogen power cells. These vehicles harnessed the power of Hydrogen atoms to produce power. The main benefit to these Hydrogen vehicles was the only emission produced was pure water. People immediately thought that this was also our great solution when in fact it was only another well thought but non-practical idea. The negatives to Hydrogen were very numerous.
The first was Hydrogen power cells were extremely heavy and large which would make them impossible to be used in most cars and trucks. The Hydrogen power cells and engines also proved to be much too expensive. A complete vehicle with both the engine and power cells would prove to have a price tag exceeding one hundred thousand dollars. A price that nearly no one could stand for or afford. Once these facts were introduced, people didn’t give Hydrogen vehicles a second thought. Right now the only vehicles in the world that run on Hydrogen are 4 sole commuter buses in London, England.
Then came the idea of alcohol powered cars. The only benefit for vehicles to run on alcohol was the extreme horsepower that resulted from its use. Engines could see a net gain of nearly three times as much more horsepower than they would usually have. The public saw this and thought, “Wow, we need to make the switch,” but what they didn’t realize was the fact that the continuous use of alcohol caused engines to deteriorate over fifty times as fast when compared to gasoline. Not only that, alcohol produced emissions twice as bad as gasoline.
The idea of alcohol-powered vehicles was shot down very quickly and they are only used in NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) drag racing events where an engine’s life span is not much more than 3 seconds. People are still now looking for a sensible alternative to our oil problem. There are three main expectations that our next fuel must meet. First, it must produce the same, if not better, results that we have come to expect from our gasoline vehicles. Second, it must be cleaner than gasoline engines so the environment can recover from the damage we have inflicted.
Finally, the next fuel must have a long life expectancy. We do not want to make a large change and then discover we do not have enough fuel to last us for any considerable amount of time. There is a solution, which is just now gaining notice from the public that meets and far exceeds these expectations. This solution is CNG. CNG is not the new kid on the block by any stretch. It has been around for over one hundred years safely heating homes and cooking meals. It has just recently been put into real world use as a fuel for combustion engines and so far has produced great results.
When compared to oil, CNG is seen as a great alternative. One of the most protested products of oil combustion is the production of Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide, Methane Gas, and noxious Hydrocarbons (Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition). These four air pollutants cause damage to the environment in four different ways. First of all, Carbon Monoxide is capable of killing any living creature when inhaled too greatly. Carbon Dioxide is produced by every animal on the planet, yet the amount of Carbon Dioxide total created by combustion engines is nearly 35 times greater than that of living creatures total.
Also, Methane Gas, when mixed with Carbon Dioxide, creates damaging acid rain that eats away at nearly everything it comes in contact with. Finally, Hydrocarbons are the main cause of the large and ever growing hole in the O-zone layer at the South Pole, and over half of all Hydrocarbons produced by cars are emitted into the atmosphere upon filling up of a fuel tank. CNG, on the other hand, does not produce any Hydrocarbons or Carbon Monoxide and only creates 1/6 to 1/3 the amounts of Carbon Dioxide and Methane (California Energy Commission).
These tasks accomplished by CNG are the result of it being a cleaner fuel and by having a completely sealed fueling process. These facts alone make CNG a clear winner to emissions counsels. Another complaint of oil is the production of hazardous suspended fine particle matter (small particles created upon combustion) have also been proven to increase the possibility for respiratory infection while CNG has been proven to only create a small fraction of these particles comparatively. One of the most debated topics as of late is the fluctuating price of oil and how long it is predicted oil will still be in existence.
OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) has taken complete control of the oil industry and is sticking it to consumers by raising prices to exorbitant amounts. Many politicians see the only solutions to this problem are to either drill in Alaska for oil or to force car manufacturers to produce vehicles with better gas mileage. Drilling would cause an uproar by Greenpeace (environmental organization) who would initiate protests for causing more damage to the environment, and placing harder fuel consumption
laws on car manufacturers would not make a difference for at least six years because producing a new vehicle requires six to ten years to make from conception to production. CNG’s price range is nearly equal to that of gasoline, which makes many frugal consumers happy. In fact, 90% of all CNG reserves are found in Texas, and the majority of the other 10% are found in scattered parts of America and Canada (Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition). These home-based reserves would decrease, if not eliminate, our long-standing dependency on OPEC. Converting would not only make the U.
S. less dependent on outside producers, it would also require other countries to become dependent on us. The end result would be an increased workforce, higher paying jobs and a stronger economy, especially in Texas. Oil reserves around the world have also been predicted to dry up within 50 years, while reserves of CNG have been predicted to last the world for at least 200 years under full use. The time to convert to an alternate fuel source is running out and electronic vehicles aren’t up to speed yet and won’t be for quite some time.
If a conversion occurred, there would be plenty of time to create a perfectly clean alternative. Another worry is performance concerns and whether new vehicles will meet the standards set by its predecessor. To put it briefly, CNG smashes the standard. When a CNG engine is compared with a normal gasoline engine under the same conditions, CNG produces 10-15% more horsepower while only causing 10% of the damage gasoline usually does to an engine (Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition). These figures translate to dollar signs for consumers.
The added horsepower results in fewer trips to the CNG station and the lowered damage to engines means much longer engine life. These two facts alone have moved many fleet companies to convert to CNG. These same fleet companies are also pleased with the fact that CNG cannot be siphoned from a vehicle’s tank, which is a high concern since fuel theft often occurs while tanker drivers sleep through the night. Not only are there performance concerns, people also worry whether the special fuel cells used to hold CNG are entirely safe.
The fuel cells (cylinders), which hold the CNG, can be considered the safest part of a vehicle. They are highly reinforced to prevent puncture, and even if the tanks ruptured, the fuel would not drip onto the ground like gasoline, which is a fire hazard. . The CNG would quickly dissipate into the atmosphere since it is lighter than air. One could argue that CNG could ignite while it dissipates into the air, but flammability is not a problem since CNG requires a high ignition temperature, about 650A°C, compared with about 350A°C for gasoline (Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition).
It also has a narrow range of flammability; that is, in concentrations in air below about 5 percent and above about 15 percent, natural gas will not burn. The design of CNG cylinders are also subjected to a number of federally required “severe abuse” tests, such as heat and pressure extremes, gunfire, collisions, and fires. Accidental ignition is a non-existent safety problem with CNG vehicles because the fueling process is completely sealed and only requires about five minutes depending on fuel tank size. The final benefit of CNG is that conversion is inexpensive.
CNG does not need a specially designed engine for it to produce power. It can be installed on any regular gasoline-powered vehicle on its engine for only $1,000 to $2,000. General Motors has already recognized this fact and has produced 20,000 CNGV (CNG vehicles) for the Texas government for varying tasks (General Motors). Daimler-Chrysler is also following close behind with the introduction of their concept car, the new Dodge Charger that runs solely on CNG. The problem of the world’s energy needs is quite apparent and a solution must be reached in a timely fashion.
CNG meets all the standards placed by its predecessor and is clearly the front-runner for the position of our next fuel. Jim Hightower, a well known Texas Populist, put it quite clearly when he said, “The world is running on its last few drops of fuel and we need to find a sensible replacement. ” This statement hits the target of our problems right on the nose and if more of the public knew what the state of our energy crisis is, there would be a much larger push to make a conversion. The hurdles that must be cleared have been plainly laid out and only need to be recognized.
Works Cited Questions and Answers About Compressed Natural Gas. International Association for Natural Gas Vehicles. 1 Oct. 2000. 5 Oct. 2000. . Compressed Natural Gas Vehicles. General Motors. 4 Jan. 2000. 5 Oct. 2000. . Hightower, Jim. San Jacinto College. The Candidates at Hand. Pasadena, TX, 6 Oct. 2000. Compressed and Liquefied Natural Gas Vehicles (NGVs). California Energy Commission. 10 Feb. 1999. 5 Oct. 2000. . Usual Debate. Hannity and Colmes. Fox News Channel, New York City. 12 Sept. 2000.