Natural gas fueling

Will there be a natural gas vehicle revolution due to low cost CNG refueling station from GE?

GE is developing a quick fueling system for natural gas vehicles as part of an ARPA-E funded group of thirteen projects to improve natural gas fueling, that could begin to make CNG vehicles attractive to the average consumer.

Natural gas is cheap and abundant thanks to the controversial technique, hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) that has led to a boom in natural gas production. While use of natural gas increases greenhouse gas emissions, and desequesters carbon that was sequestered millions of years ago, it is thought to be cleaner than gasoline or diesel. The problem with natural gas adoption is a lack of refueling infrastructure for public, and those of us with electric cars have it good compared to the infrastructure for natural gas vehicles (NGV). General Electric is looking to fix that problem with a new at-home refueling station for natural gas vehicles being developed in part with government funding through ARPA-E.

The GE project is part of a larger group of ARPA-E projects which are collectively known as Methane Opportunities for Vehicular Energy (MOVE). The bakers dozen (13) of MOVE projects are to receive a total of $30 million in funding, and are expected to find new ways of harnessing the now abundant natural gas supplies for cars and trucks and expand the use of natural gas as a vehicle fuel.

The GE program has a target of a $500 refueling station that cuts the time required from 5-8 hours to 1 hour. The project is a partnership between GE, Chart Industries, and scientists with the University of Missouri.


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This article suggests that NGVs cannot currently be filled quickly. This is true of home filling dispensers but not of public filling stations. It takes about 5min to fill a Honda Civic CNG at a public CNG filling station. Why? Because at the public filling station, the gas is already compressed to 3600psi; the customer is merely transferring it to the vehicle. By contrast, at home, with a 'time fill' cascade compressor, one begins with low pressure city gas, and compresses on the spot to the 3600psi required. It therefore takes much longer to fill the tank. It is unlikely that many people will want to purchase compressors. But it is nearly certain that diesel trucks will be switching en mass to CNG. This is beginning to drive the construction of public stations, and once those stations are in place, owners of private cars will follow. Oil is too useful and too expensive to be used for transport when a much cheaper alternative is available.