Dual-fuel vehicles could be the next big thing
Not to be confused with flex-fuel cars and trucks, dual-fuel vehicles will be able to work with two widely varied combustibles. Most fortuitously applicable to large trucks, the technology will require both petrol and natural gas storage tanks.
If natural gas is not available, the truck could run on gasoline only. If petrol prices get too high, it could run on natural gas only, as well – a great advantage in places like Wyoming where it’s a 30-mile drive to the neighborhood WalMart and natural gas is everywhere.
According to a report by Mark Koebrich on 9NEWS, a new dual-fuel production model of the Dodge Ram has a load-bearing compressed natural gas (CNG) tank immediately behind the cab with the normal gas tank in the usual place.
Reportedly, dual-fuel Ram Heavy Duty trucks, along with a competing pair from GM, will be in select showrooms this summer. They will take on Ford’s CNG trucks that have been available since 2009. Dual-fuel sedans are expected to follow later in the year.
Natural gas prices range from $1.49 to $2.59 in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah producing dramatic savings on large trucks that can require up to $200 to fill with petrol at today's rates.
Koebrich talked with David Padgett, who owns a Honda Civic CNG sedan – Honda has been selling a few of these natural gas vehicles annually for years.
"It's costing me one-third of the cost of commuting with gasoline as it does to commute with natural gas,” he said. “I wouldn't drive anything else.”
He pays $2.59 for the equivalent of a gallon of gas at a commercial refueling pump on the outskirts of town.
"If I was buying gasoline, it would have cost me over $30 to fill up this car," Padgett said. "The actual cost of the natural gas was about $12, and if I do it in my garage, it's going to be about $4."
At home you can install a natural gas hook-up in the garage from your home gas line. You pull the hose from the wall and refuel at home for a fraction of the commercial station price.
"You'll burn natural gas when you can, and if you need to back it up with gasoline, it's there for you as well. Same engine - no difference," Padgett concluded.
Automotive pundits foresee this technology catching on over the next few years, just as hybrids are beginning to now. Toyota Motor Sales more than doubled hybrid sales in April (compared to last year), on the heels of over 50,000 hybrids of all makes selling in March.
Dr. Jennifer Miskimins, a professor in petroleum engineering at the Colorado School of Mines, told 9NEWS the technology is a game changer that could empower a new economy, just because it's so plentiful and cheaper than gasoline.
Colorado has thousands of active natural gas wells, both in Weld County (Colorado’s third most populous, stretching from Denver’s suburbs to the Wyoming border) and on the Western Slope. They are just a hint of a potentially enormous natural gas based economic model.