Amidst growing concerns about the environmental impacts of automobiles, researchers have been seeking to develop affordable clean technologies. In the late 90s, natural gas emerged as a potential source for clean burning fuel. Natural gas is a plentiful resource with lines running into nearly every American household. When it is used as a fuel in cars or trucks, almost no harmful chemicals are emitted into the environment. Although it seems like a great option for the future, natural gas vehicles (NGV) have only been able to fill a very small niche market in the world of alternative automobiles.
There are a number of difficulties that arise when trying to implement NGV technology. The biggest problem is the lack of fueling stations. Issues can sometimes arise with cars that tend to have limited range and few places to refill the tanks. Initial cost is also a major concern. Since the technology is still rather new and not extremely popular, natural gas vehicles tend to be somewhat expensive to purchase. Government incentives have been offered in the United States in order to spur interest and help offset these costs. Lastly, fuel tanks in these vehicles can sometimes be extremely large and take up a lot of space. In some models, this completely eliminates the trunk space.
One of the most popular natural gas vehicles is the Honda Civic GX. It is one of the cleanest production cars currently available in the United States. The design for this car is based off of the current standard Civic model. It was first tested in California through a lease to Los Angeles County’s parking enforcement officials. The Civic GX was intended to appeal to those that operate large fleets of vehicles, such as city workers or taxis. Despite a few obstacles, the test went extremely well. After a couple years, the car was made available for purchase through a select number of dealers in California and more recently New York. The current range of the Civic GX is approximately 250 miles, which makes it ideal for short trips or commutes. In order to alleviate the concerns over a lack of places to fuel up the GX, a home refueling station was designed in conjunction with a company called Fuelmaker. The station is connected right to the home’s gas line and allows owners to refuel right in their garage.
Natural gas is definitely a viable option for the fuel of tomorrow, but there is a good chance it might be overshadowed by emerging electric and hydrogen technologies.
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