GM and Chrysler Announce Compressed Natural Gas Pickup Trucks

GM Silverado CNGFlickr/CC BY 3.0

Natural Gas Pickup Trucks

Natural gas is bad. But gasoline is worse. It's best to avoid burning either of them, but if you need to choose, in general natural gas will get the same work done with less CO2 released in the atmosphere and significantly fewer smog-forming emissions (more details on that below...). That's why many experts think it would be a good idea to have more of the transportation sector running on compressed natural gas (CNG) rather than gasoline and diesel. This especially makes sense for heavier trucks that are harder to electrify because they often carry very heavy charges, making the cost of the batteries required prohibitively expensive for now.

For a long time, Honda was almost alone in offering a CNG vehicle in the USA (though many people have been DIY-converting regular cars into CNG-powered vehicles) with its Honda GX. It was long considered the 'cleanest cars' in the US, though it has recently been bumped down the list by the Mitsubishi i MiEV. Chrysler and GM are now throwing their hats into the ring by announcing CNG-powered pickup trucks:

General Motors Co. on Monday plans to disclose it will offer bi-fuel Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 pickups in the fourth quarter. The trucks will be built by GM and sent to a supplier that will retrofit them to use compressed natural-gas tanks. [...]

On Tuesday, Chrysler Group LLC plans to disclose it will build the first production-line pickup truck powered by natural gas. The auto maker is promising to build at least 2,000 heavy-duty Ram bi-fuel trucks that run on a combination of compressed natural gas and gasoline starting in June. (source)

CNG is especially well adapted to fleet vehicles because you can have a central CNG refuelling station.

CNG filling station pump photo

As for the benefits of CNG over gasoline, the Department of Energy has this to say:

  • Reduces carbon monoxide emissions 90%-97%
  • Reduces carbon dioxide emissions 25%
  • Reduces nitrogen oxide emissions 35%-60%
  • Potentially reduces non-methane hydrocarbon emissions 50%-75%
  • Emits fewer toxic and carcinogenic pollutants
  • Emits little or no particulate matter
  • Eliminates evaporative emissions

More details here (PDF).

But as with all fuels, the source of the natural gas matters. Potential problems with fracking techniques of extraction need to be taken into account. This might narrow CNG's advantage over gasoline and diesel, though extracting and refining these fossil fuels is also very bad. The ideal source of natural gas is probably biogas captured at a landfill (better to burn it doing something productive than let it escape in the atmosphere and screw with the climate).


Tags: Natural Gas | Transportation


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