One day you may be driving a non-polluting SUV that runs onnatural gas. There are more 110,000 of them on Americanroads already, although most are taxis or delivery vans.
Compressed natural gas (CNG) cars have a maximum range of200 miles between refueling stops. In order to fill up,drivers have to locate one of the 1,600 public or privatenatural gas stations in the U.S., which are primarily alongthe coasts or in environmentally sensitive areas like SaltLake City or Denver. The limited number of natural gasstations has slowed consumer acceptance of CNG vehicles.Therese Langer, of the American Council for anEnergy-Efficient Economy, says, "It's a huge obstacle."
If you?re using CNG, why go to a gas station at all? Fill upyour tank at home. The Canadian company Fuelmaker hasinvented a home refueling appliance (HRA) so people can usethe gas that comes into their homes to also power theircars. They plan to price it at about $995 when it comes outin the United States in mid-2003. It?s compatible with mosthome gas lines. If you have an all-electric kitchen, you caninstall a gas line in your garage especially for your car.
Refueling with the HRA isn?t fast: It takes about one hourper 10 miles driven. Fuelmaker V.P. Ralph Rackman says it?sworth it not to have to remember to stop at the gas station."Once (consumers have) had the opportunity to refuel athome, they really don't want to give (that) up," he says.
CNG vehicles are manufactured by several big automakers,including Chevy, Honda, Ford and Daimler Chrysler. Honda hasbeen making the Civic GX since 1998. It owns 20 percent ofFuelmaker and is assisting in the development of the HRA.
Stephen Ellis, American Honda's manager of alternative-fuelvehicles, says that while consumers can buy the GX, it?s notmarketed nationally because there are so few fuelingstations. He believes the HRA "will allow a consumer marketfor CNG vehicles to develop," and expects about 20,000 CNGvehicles to be on the road in the U.S. by 2003.
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