Vehicles that run on compressed natural gas are called natural gas vehicles. These modes of transport are specially designed to utilize either compressed natural gas or liquefied natural gas as the automobile fuel, instead of the conventional gasoline. In many countries, such as the United States of America, compressed natural gas is used to fuel car, vans, pick-up trucks, transit and school-buses and trucks. Other countries, like Malaysia, consume compressed natural gas for taxi-cabs and airport uses. India employs CNG mainly for public transport system and this source of energy is even used in auto-rickshaws. Thailand also follows suit by exploiting CNG for its tuk-tuks as does Pakistan for its three-wheelers.
Up to 2009, there are nearly 11 million natural gas vehicles in the world. Asia is holds the highest number of NGVs, accounting to more than half of the world’s quantity. Pakistan records the most natural gas vehicles, around 2,250,000, which include cars, busses, trucks and others. The second highest is Iran, having about 1,700,000 natural gas vehicles on its roads. Taiwan and Vietnam are the smallest users of NGV, with only 4 and 2 of such vehicles respectively. Regionally, the South and Central parts of the world come in second after Asia; having a total of almost 4 million NGVs. Africa possesses the lowest quantity of NGVs, which is less than 300. There are about 900,000 natural gas vehicles in Europe and nearly 90,000 in Eurasia, while North America is almost reaching 120,000.
With respect to the increasing number of natural gas vehicles being produced, it comes as little surprise the models and specifications of such automobiles are also seeing improvement and additions. The most renowned natural gas car is the Honda Civic GX. At present, it is the only light-duty car that is manufactured in the United States of America. It is one of the cleanest-running cars available to the public. The Civic does not need gasoline and is the only factory-built automobile that runs purely on compressed natural gas. The Honda Civic car offers consumers the attractive specifications as those running on gasoline. Among others, a sporty design, aerodynamic exterior with new six-sided grille, two-tier instrument panel and an MP3/Windows Media Player besides complying with safety requirements. It is sold to consumers at a starting price close to $26,000. Besides that, tax incentives are given to consumers who purchase this vehicle in the United States.
There are also other NGV models being introduced to consumers such as the Fiat. The Fiat, produced by the Turin manufacturer is known to be the favorite in Italy and Europe. It offers consumers the choice of bi-fueling either petrol or methane. When the Fiat Panda was released in 2007, there were more than 28,000 orders in the first 5 months alone. It also won the European Car of the Year award in 2004. Fiat models are very appealing to consumers as they are factory built in a way that enables fuel tanks to be installed under the vehicle’s body. This frees up the trunk space for car owner to use as they wish. Another top model of this manufacturer is the Fiat Multipla which won the Top Gear’ Gear’s Car of the Year award in 2000, and the ‘Best MPV’ for a following number of years. The Fiat Multipla, based on the Brava, consists of two rows of 3 seats, unlike any other competing cars. Its body, which is shorter and wider than other cars, offers consumers greater seating and space. Boasting about its inner room and flexibility, this car went through a major makeover on its design in 2004 to get more customers. Another NGV by Fiat is the Fiat Qubo Natural Power, released in 2009.
Another automobile that is growing in popularity is the Volkswagen Touran EcoFuel Natural Gas Car. This car is esteemed to be environmentally friendly as well as providing flexibility to consumers as they can run on either compressed natural gas or gasoline. The use between gasoline and compressed natural gas is easily and automatically alternated when the CNG tank is unfilled. The Touran EcoFuel comes in the form of a MPV and is now available as a taxi variant. This vehicle has 2-liter four-cylinder engine and 109 horsepower. At temperatures more than 15-grees C, this green car starts with compressed natural gas. Gasoline is used for ignition for lower degrees of heat. With a range of close to 200 miles on CNG, the engine compression ratio of this car is 13.5:1 to produce best driving performance. As with the other factory-manufactured natural gas vehicles, this car is fitted with four tanks under the floor. This opens up space for 7 passenger seating and full load capacity. What makes this car stand out from others is the fact that it is offers quicker and more silent refueling compared to its gasoline counterparts due to its large lines and valves. Besides, it promises 80% less carbon monoxide emission while providing a top speed of 112mph, running on compressed natural gas.
The Ford Motor Company is also not lagging behind when it comes to manufacturing natural gas vehicles. Being the parent company of Volvo cars, quite a number of NGV models have been produced over the years; Volvo C30, S40, V50 and S60 to name a few. The Volvo V70 has been gaining popularity in countries such as Sweden since it was released in 1997, and has evolved over the years. This vehicle is classified as a mid-sized or executive car, with 5 doors. It comes with a front engine, front-wheel drive as well as four-wheel drive. Being a bi-fuel car as the others, it has its tanks placed underneath the floor to give users more seating and cargo space. This automobile satisfies users with a range between 250 to 300 km, on a full tank of compressed natural gas. Meanwhile, the back-up tank contains sufficient gasoline to give the car owner another 300 to 350 km drive. The Volvo model takes pride in its safety features providing blind-spot censor systems to alert drivers of cars hidden from the driver’s view. Besides the standards airbag protection, these Volvo cars are also equipped with whiplash prevention for the front row of seats. Apart from that, these cars come with daytime running lights for better visibility. Thus, it is only natural that the Volvo model was awarded full star rating for adult occupant protection by the European New Car Assessment Program in 2007, which is excellent for a NGV.
There are more and more natural gas vehicles being manufactured every year as consumers’ awareness of the benefits of CNG increase and the price of gasoline escalates. The list of NGV modes of transport ranges from Chevrolet, Citroen, Peugeot, Renault, Mercedes, Isuzu, Proton and it is not exhaustive. NGV productions do not only come in the form of passenger cars but also airplanes, helicopters, buses & trucks. In the future, the world will have a variety of choices when it comes to picking the preferred transportation mode, with the better source of energy. As more and more of such vehicles are produced, eventually individuals or businesses will be able to find specific automobiles to better suit their needs, in comparison to the standard gasoline fueled vehicles. In a longer time frame, this benefit would be able to be achieved at a very competitive price, with the prevalent consumption of compressed natural gas.