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The Race for CNG

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The Combustible Truth About CNG Conversions in the United States

May 25th 2011

Automotive - Autogas CNG conversion Bangladesh

For those of you that are starting to yearn for a CNG car to drive to ease your Gasoline Pump sticker shock, the sad fact is that there are very few options left in the U.S. for aftermarket (non-EPA) CNG Conversions. By the end of 2008 there were about 8 companies starting to import CNG systems into Utah. There were a few Aspirated systems: Diel, GN Group, and Galileo all out of Argentina. There were more Sequential Systems: Technocarb and Ecofuel out of Canada. There were Landi Renzo, Tommasetto Achille, and Lo-Gas out of Italy; Tec for Gas out of China; Auto Gas out of Poland; and Prins out of Netherlands.

The only CNG systems that were widely installed were Technocarb, Prins, and Auto Gas. These all reached their peak in 2008 and 2009 then tapered off and mostly died out by 2010 due to the lowering of gasoline prices. As of May of 2011 only a few kits are still being imported, the aspirated were Diel, then there is Technocarb, Tommasetto, Auto Gas, Lo-Gas and Prins in the sequential injection but only in limited quantities.

In 2008 there were about 20 CNG install shops in Utah. That number has dwindled to a handful. The problem facing would-be CNG converters nowadays is money: we are just out of it. After a limping economy for the last 4 years, the rising gasoline prices have finally sucked the consumer dry.

Yes, the overall knowledge about CNG conversions has increased over the past few years but the aftermarket CNG conversion industry in the United States is still in its infant stage, with under 200,000 natural gas vehicles. The United States has approximately 254,400,000 vehicles on the road. That means that .000432 percent of the vehicles in the United States are natural gas-fueled. That is 432 ten thousandths of a percent. 

As to the future of the after-market CNG industry in the United States, there are a few areas in the United States that already have the CNG refueling infrastructure along with low priced Natural Gas in place. Utah and Oklahoma are 2 such states. The availability of low-priced CNG is one of the main factors that help the industry to grow. There are other states that have fueling stations left over from the CAA (Clean Air Act) fleet conversion boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but these stations' prices are generally not much less than gasoline. The price differential needs to be 2 to 1 or 3 to 1 gasoline price to CNG price before people start moving towards converting. In 2008 many would-be vehicle converters were commiserating about rules, regulations, and certifications. Nowadays after a few years of the Bush/Obama recession, the prospective converter is mostly concerned about price; anything over a few thousand dollars is usually out of their price range.

CNG conversion component suppliers are slowly restocking. The overall price of systems is slowly coming down. Those of us who have stayed in the industry look to have a good year if we can stay competitive. The EPA Certification/Rebate segment of the CNG industry will slowly grow, but is still dependent on the goodies being handed out by government agencies to cover their certification costs. In addition, EPA clean air mandates may force some fleets to convert in non-obtainment (of clean air standards) areas. 

Any significant growth in CNG conversions will have to come from everyday drivers, one vehicle at a time, as they pull their heads out of the fog produced by fearmongers and overzealous autocrats who have been trying to reserve CNG converting for a few anointed elites. 

Any country in the world that has made a successful transition to CNG vehicles has done so using the consumer and natural market forces as the main driving force, not the government with its regulations and bureaucrats. Our government needs to get out of the way and let natural market forces take over.

Jim Younkin edits the CNG Newsletter, from where this article is taken.

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