Gasoline powered vehicles have existed for well over a century. The first gasoline powered car was road tested in 1893 by the Duryea Brothers in Springfield, Massachusetts. Since then, almost every vehicle we see on the road runs on fossil fuel. Many of them are a hybrid of fossil fuel and electricity. But a growing number of alternative energy vehicles are making their own mark in the transportation world: Natural Gas Vehicles (NGVs).
According to the Natural Gas Vehicle Commission of America, there are over 120,000 NGVs on the roads in the United States and over 15 million worldwide. All of these vehicles meet even the strictest emissions standards put forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Over the course of the year 2011, NGVs helped offset nearly 360 million gallons of gasoline consumption in the United States. They are also as safe, or safer, than any of their gasoline or diesel engine counterparts.
Natural gas currently costs about $1.50-$2.00 less per gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE). A GGE is the amount of alternative fuel required to equal the energy content of a single gallon of gasoline. In 1994, the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defined 5.660 pounds of natural gas to equal one GGE. There are only about 1,000 NGV refueling stations in the United States, but there are home refueling appliances that will allow you to refuel your vehicle right at home.
According to the American Public Transportation Association, nearly one-fifth of all transit buses ran on natural gas in 2011. They are currently the largest consumer of natural gas in vehicles, accounting for about 62% of all NGVs in the United States. Waste collection and transfer vehicles are the fastest growing group of NGVs, currently accounting for about 12% of all NGVs in the US. On top of all that, more than 35 airports in the US employ the use of NGVs in their vehicular fleets, taking up another 9% of total NGVs.
So, what makes a natural gas vehicle so important? Natural gas is cheaper and cleaner than gasoline, plus 98% of natural gas in the US was produced in North America. Compared to the 47% of imported oil, natural gas production is more of a boon to the local economy. Carbon monoxide emissions from NGVs are 70-90% lower than that of fossil fuel vehicles, carbon dioxide emissions are 20-30% lower, nitrogen oxides are 75-95% lower, and non-methane organic gas emissions are 50-75% lower.
There are numerous manufacturers that make natural gas vehicles, including Chrysler, Ford, and Honda. The EPA even listed the natural gas-powered Honda Civic as the cleanest commercially available, internal combustion vehicle on the market. The natural gas vehicle market is growing, and with all the benefits, it will certainly be worth the investment.
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