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The Race for Alt Fuel


CNG Conversions Still Going Nowhere Fast

July 17th 2011

Automotive - CNG Toyota trunk tank

So the price of gas goes up again, and everyone wants to jump on the CNG bandwagon: the investors, the dreamers, the educators, the regulators, the politicians, the everyday driver—and the list goes on and on. The only problem is that there is one big CNG roadblock. No CNG conversions available at a decent price for the common man, no one has any money, and the rules-and-regulations bogeyman is hovering. Yes, there are new vehicles with EPA certifications for $40K that come with government handouts for their purchase, and there are a few older OEM CNG vehicles still on the road. But there still isn't a readily available conversion system.

Why is that? I will tell you why: the average driver in the United State drives a vehicle that is so over-regulated for emissions that if they are faced with something as revolutionary as converting to natural gas and their check engine light comes on, they go screaming to the closest governmental agency or dealership for protection.

Case in point: in 2007 and 2008, as the price of gas rose went well over $4.00, hundreds of vehicle owners in Utah converted their vehicles to natural gas. There were certain individuals in the CNG industry that just didn’t like the competition, and they went crying to Utah Public Safety and got them to outlaw any CNG vehicle that did not have an EPA-certified system, using their state mandated safety inspections to enforce this. This rule change was short lived, but it did show how some individuals in the CNG industsry have a propensity to run to government agencies to try to punish behavior they don’t like or agree with.

Anywhere else in the world, we would have a choice of CNG systems and factory CNG Vehicles. In the United States, it is just the other way around: CNG converters that install non-EPA certified systems must buy their systems from outside the U.S. A modern non-EPA sequential CNG system is virtually identical to a certified system; the major difference is the tuning and testing.

A word about EPA-certified systems. They are only available for new Ford and Chevy trucks and a handful of new Ford and Chevy cars. What determines whether or not a company is willing to develop a EPA-certified system for a particular new vehicle is its fleet marketability. The expense to certify needs to be balanced by government handouts and rebates. Aftermarket non-EPA systems, on the other hand, are less expensive, adaptable to most any vehicle, and without the extra expense of tuning, testing, et cetera, they are less expensive to the customer. The bureaucrats, politicians, and other CNG enthusiasts that promote EPA-certified CNG systems need to understand that their approach, no matter how well intentioned, would only cover fewer than 1% of the nation’s vehicles even if everyone that drove new Ford and Chevy trucks could afford the conversions and actually did convert.

Regardless of what bureaucrats, politicians, or CNG pundits try to feed us, the American public just want to convert what they are driving as inexpensively as possible. The high cost of gas and the lagging economy has made it abundantly apparent that the EPA-certified model for CNG conversions is not working for the general public.

Jim Younkin is the proprietor of Alternative Fuel Connection.

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