Money Talks, So Should You

Green car guide: Compressed natural gas cars

Clint Williams
by Clint Williams, Dimespring Contributor

Volatile gasoline prices and environmental concerns are nudging more and more people toward alternatives to the old-fashioned gas-guzzler. And never have there been more options for getting from Point A to Point B.

Electric cars are no longer the stuff of wistful science fiction. Hybrid cars are mainstream. Alternative fuel cars are available and even gasoline-powered engines are more efficient and eco-friendly. Driving a green car may reduce your monthly operating costs, but in most cases the higher purchase price means a payback period of years, not weeks or months.

Compressed natural gas

Compressed natural gas (CNG) is one of the cleanest-burning alternative fuels, generating 60-90% less smog-producing pollutants than a conventional internal combustion engine and 30-40% less greenhouse gas emissions. CNG is also cheaper than gasoline. But a classic chicken-egg conundrum regarding refueling has dampened adoption of CNG vehicles.

READ: Five tips for saving gas money

Pros

Cheaper fill-ups. The cost of CNG averages up to $1.50 less per gallon than diesel or gasoline.
Abundant and made in America. North America has more than a 120-year supply of natural gas reserves. New technology is also making natural gas easier and cheaper to get. About 98% of natural gas consumed in North America is domestically produced.
Faster commutes. In many states, CNG cars are allowed to use the HOV lane.

Cons

Sticker price. Buyers pay a premium for CNG vehicles. A CNG Honda Civic, for example, has an MSRP of $26,155, versus a comparably equipped, gasoline-powered Civic LX that goes for $18,242.
Upfront costs. Installing a home refueling unit that allows you to fill your tank using the natural gas service at your house can cost up to $5,000, although many utility companies offer rebates.
Range anxiety. CNG refueling stations can be hard to find. While the network is expanding, there are only about 600 public CNG stations across the country.

Models to consider

Honda Civic Natural Gas: The only CNG automobile widely available features a 1.8-liter engine that produces 110 horsepower. Sure, it’s a bit pokey, but you’re getting better than 30 mpg and reducing greenhouse gases.
Ram 2500 Heavy Duty CNG: This big-boy pickup truck hit the market this summer and is powered by a 5.7-liter HEMI® V-8 engine that runs on both CNG and gasoline. The engine automatically switches from CNG to gasoline. CNG-only range is 301 miles highway, while the backup supply of gasoline extends the range to 966 total miles. The Ram 2500 CNG offers 1,580 pounds of payload and 7,650 pounds of towing capability.
Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD: The 6-liter, V-8 engine powering this pickup truck also seamlessly transitions between CNG and gasoline fuel systems, giving the truck a range of more than 650 miles. The Silverado will be available later this year in standard and long box, with either two- or four-wheel drive.


MORE OPTIONS FROM THE GREEN CAR GUIDE:
Electric cars
Diesel cars
High mpg cars
Hybrid cars

 

Clint Williams is an Arizona-based freelancer for DImespring. He has written for the Arizona Republic and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.