11 June 2012

Argonne Lab Shifts Focus to Natural Gas Vehicles

Posted by John Freeland

Although natural gas is not yet a big transportation fuel in the United States, there is some steady, quiet progress toward that goal. President Obama stated his committment to natural gas as a transportation fuel during a western road trip:

“We’ve got to keep at it. Think about what could happen if we do,” Obama said. “Think about an America where more cars and trucks are running on domestic natural gas than on foreign oil. Think about an America where our companies are leading the world in developing natural gas technology and creating a generation of new energy jobs. … We can do this.”

After working on battery technology used in the Chevy Volt, the Argonne National Laboratory has taken up study of natural gas vehicles and supporting technologies. From their press release:

“Our hope is that there will be a bunch of technologies that need testing,” said Mike Duoba, an engineer at Argonne’s Transportation Technology Research and Development Center.

“Certainly that’s the way it has been for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids and hybrids at the vehicle level and the systems level. That was pretty much our thing: an all systems level, vehicle-level testing for DOE,” he said.

“We have all that equipment, so we are looking forward to this stuff being made available, and we are hoping DOE will be in a position to say ‘We need to validate these, we need to benchmark these,’ and maybe even come up with some standard test metrics, standard test procedures too, which is something we are also involved in, Douba said.”

The Argonne Lab projects may lead to important advances and refinements in engine efficiency and fueling systems, which are already available on the market. Here are some links to recent articles on the “natgas” transportation front:

1. High cost of gas has drivers turning to CNG Vehicles (video)

2. One of the big obstacles to commercial use is the lack of natgas fueling stations nationwide. There may be more out there than people realize. Running on compressed natural gas (CNG) instead of diesel, a Freightliner truck completed a trip from San Diego to Washington D.C., averaging 250 miles between re-fueling stops. Natgas Freightliner-Cascadia Truck Completes Cross-Country Test

3. More CNG Fueling Stations Slated for Atlanta

“The response we received indicates strong support for natural gas to fuel vehicles in Georgia and has the potential to make CNG much easier for many Georgians to access,” said Steve Lindsey, President, Atlanta Gas Light. “The domestically abundant supply of natural gas makes it a great time to invest in CNG vehicles to save money, decrease dependence on foreign oil and reduce emissions.”

4. And finally, a “less bullish” take on natural gas vehicles:
Fueling Costs For Natural Gas Are More Expensive Than Electric Vehicles