Natural Gas Car Shopping Guide: Pros, Cons, Costs

December 26, 2013 Updated: December 31, 2013    

Epoch Times is taking a look at each of the major options for going green while shopping for your next vehicle.

Natural gas is a big part of clean-energy plans across the United States as hydraulic fracturing releases the gas from shale rock. A large amount of water is used, mixed with a small portion of toxic chemicals, to blast the shale. This process, usually referred to as hydrofracking has raised many concerns among environment advocates, though the gas runs cleaner than fossil fuels conventionally used today.

Vehicles are also being made to run on natural gas, with some still relying on gasoline as a back-up.

Here’s a look at the pros and cons of natural gas cars.

See Epoch Times articles on the electric car, hybrid car, hydrogen car and coffee car. Still to come: A look at cars that run on biogas.

 

Pros

  • Natural gas burns cleaner than conventional gasoline or diesel fuel, due to its low carbon content. It emits 20 percent less carbon dioxide than gasoline.
  • It is non-toxic, so the gas does not harm soil or water.
  • It is cheaper than gasoline. Dillon Transport partnered with other companies to open a natural gas station in Tampa, Fla., in December. Nick Saban, (not affiliated with Nick Saban the College football coach) Dillon’s terminal leader for Tampa and Mulberry, told the Tampa Bay Times the price of compressed natural gas is the equivalent of about $2.20 per gallon (the compressed gas is measured differently than gasoline, so “equivalent” measures are given in discussing natural gas). The price of gasoline in the United States on Dec. 23 was about $3.30 per gallon. 

 

Cons

  • As a fossil fuel, it cannot be considered a renewable resource.
  • Natural gas vehicles run fewer miles on a tank of fuel—the fuel efficiency is about half that of gasoline-powered vehicles.
  • Opponents of high-pressure, horizontal hydrofracking note the risks of this relatively new form of extraction. More than 100 U.S. municipalities have banned fracking because of concerns about water usage, groundwater contamination from the discarded or perhaps spilled chemical solution, and air pollution, among other issues.
  • As with many new vehicle technologies, finding enough fueling stations is an issue. There are about 1,300 fueling stations in the United States, according to industry group Natural Gas Vehicles for America, with refueling devices available for home use as well. To put that number in perspective, there are about 168,000 gasoline fueling stations in the country, Dan Akerson, chairman and CEO of General Motors, told Reuters

 

Costs

Most natural gas vehicles are used by transport companies, or as garbage trucks, buses, et cetera. Honda sells a natural gas Civic to the general public, and General Motors will roll out its first natural gas vehicle in 2015, a Chevrolet Impala.


Natural Gas Honda Civic, 2012. (Shutterstock)

A natural gas Honda Civic costs about $26,000. It gets 27 to 38 miles per gallon.

A home refueling station costs about $6,000 including installation ($4,500 without the installation cost), reports Reuters. General electric is developing a unit it hopes to retail for about $500. By comparison, an at-home charging station for electric vehicles currently costs about $1,000 plus installation.

Natural gas is about $1 to $2 cheaper per gasoline gallon equivalent.

 

Useful Website

Find your alternative fuel station using this U.S. Department of Energy alternative fuel data center

 

*Image of a natural gas pump via Shutterstock