Natural Gas Looks to Break Through and Replace Gasoline – Part Two

by Stuart Burns on

Continued from Part One

It is no surprise to hear that a government keen on subsidies is talking about extending the electric vehicle (EV) tax credit, currently worth $7,500 to $10,000, and including cars that are designed to run on natural gas, such as Honda’s CNG.

Honda and Ford — who produce a natural gas pick-up truck — are soon to be joined by new models such as Chrysler’s Ram 2500 Heavy Duty pickup (due out in July) and GM’s Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 HD (due out later in the year). GM’s trucks are said to overcome one of the drawbacks of early natural gas autos — that of limited range.

Fitted with both gasoline and natural gas tanks, and an engine that will switch from one to the other, the new GM trucks are said to have a range of 650 miles — pretty good for such a large gas guzzler.

New models and government subsidies may help overcome buyer reluctance regarding range and buying price, but worries of fill-up points, as with EV vehicles, remain a major barrier to wider acceptance. Another of President Obama’s initiatives is a proposed $1 billion National Community Deployment Challenge, which is said to include support for the development of up to five regional liquefied natural gas “corridors,” where “alternative fuel trucks can transport goods without using a drop of oil,” the White House is reported as saying.

This proposal underlines the focus for most in the industry that natural gas will remain a fuel more suited for fleet vehicles, or those on known routes, than private medium- to longer-distance users who require greater flexibility.

Still, clearly Chesapeake and other natural gas producers like them will be hoping that any increase in natural gas usage is worth having, as good as low prices are for the US — the resulting glut has all but halted further exploration.

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