Car Tips

High cost of gas has drivers turning to CNG vehicles

Saturday, June 09, 2012

For some, there's no getting around it. Only a full-size pickup truck will do the job.

A new Ford Super Duty pickup can carry big loads and tow big trailers. But it doesn't need gasoline for the job, nor diesel fuel. This big truck runs on compressed natural gas.

That's helping its popularity as a cleaner and less costly vehicle fuel.

Ford sees a market for CNG vehicles, and now offers an authorized natural gas conversion for several of its trucks. A gallon equivalent of CNG is priced at $2.25 at a Glendale clean energy location.

The fuel's inexpensive, but the CNG option is nearly $10,000 on top of the price of the pickup. Still, vehicles that do a lot of miles can benefit in the long run, especially those operated by fleets.

But what if you don't need a truck? Honda's got a natural gas Civic, the only factory-built CNG passenger car on the market.

"Fuel economy is basically the same as the Civic, so you get the same fuel-efficient vehicle, you just get a much less expensive fueld," said Chris Martin, a Honda spokesman.

It gets the added advantage of carpool lane access due to natural gas' clean-burning properties.

You might be concerned that if you got a CNG vehicle it would be difficult to find a place to fill up. Well, there are actually about 100 fueling stations around Southern California now. The beauty of the Ford pickup is that if you can't find CNG, it runs just fine on regular gasoline.

This particular conversion is a bi-fuel setup. The disadvantage is that the extra tanks steal cargo room. The Civic natural gas model strictly runs on just that, though it can help you find fuel.

Finding a CNG station is getting easier in Southern California, as there are about 100 and counting.

Experts say CNG stations are expected to grow locally by at least another 25 to 30 percent this year.

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