Sep
14

CNG: The Next Big Kid on the Alt-Vehicle Block?

One of Our Employees Thinks So

Alternative fueled vehicles have attracted a lot of attention in the last few years, but the media buzz has mostly centered around electrics due to improved battery efficiency and Tesla’s loud arrival on the scene. However, petroleum has another competitor looming on the horizon: compressed natural gas (CNG). Yes, the same fuel used to heat your home also powers many of the commercial and transportation vehicles you see on the road every day. Last year, for example, MARTA announced plans to buy 270 new CNG buses, adding to the 420 already in its fleet.

With an abundance of domestic reserves to draw from and, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, a 90- to 97- percent reduction of carbon monoxide emissions versus petroleum, CNG is primed for continued growth. We’ve also seen significant enhancements to CNG’s commercial infrastructure and an increase of refueling stations. In Georgia, Gas South has helped lead the way by supplying stations, transit systems and waste management fleets with natural gas.

How long will it be until you’re fueling up on CNG? Probably not for a few years, but don’t rule it out in the future. CNG vehicles are already being introduced into the consumer marketplace, albeit without media fanfare, and by most measures they’re showing early promise. In fact, one of our mid-market sales account managers, Craig Hallerman, recently acquired one, a 2016 Chevrolet Impala hybrid. So, we thought it’d be a great idea to share his thoughts on his new ride, which has been attracting a lot of attention among travelers and car enthusiasts on Atlanta’s highways.

Q: Why did you take the plunge and get a CNG vehicle?
A: “I wasn’t in the market for an alternative fueled vehicle but because I work in the natural gas industry, I looked into it. Gas South took care of wrapping the car in company branding because I do a lot of driving, so it gets lots of visibility – and compliments. I average about 500 miles a week, and as a clean-burning fuel, CNG is considered better for the life of an engine, so that’s something that caught my interest.”   

Q: How does the car perform in general – notice any major differences?
A: “It’s super nice and really comfy. Honestly, it feels like I’m driving a regular Chevy.”

Q: But it’s a hybrid, meaning it runs on gas and CNG. Sounds complicated. Is it?
A: “Not really. There are two separate tanks – a traditional gas tank and the natural gas tank is behind the back seat. There are also two fuel gauges – the car defaults to natural gas until it runs out, and then it switches to the regular gas tank.”

Q: Tell us how you go about fueling the vehicle.
A: “I don’t have a home-fueling device so I go to a commercial station to fill up on natural gas. There are 15 stations in the city, including one that’s on my way home.”     

Q: Fuel efficiency is a major reason why people look at alternative fuel options. Are you noticing any differences between the two?
A: “On the highway, natural gas certainly gets better mileage but regular gas seems to do better in the city. Right now, I’m averaging in the high 20s on the highway and about 18-20 in the city.”

Q: Have you found any other perks of driving an alternative fueled vehicle?A: “Yes, one big one: less traffic because Georgia gives alternative fueled vehicles HOV-lane access. That makes it easier driving around Atlanta, especially during rush hour…and my job requires a lot of driving.”

Q: Is obtaining a CNG vehicle the same as you would expect for a regular car?
A: “It’s different. It started with a conversation with GM reps and then I went to a dealership to build the car. It was a six month process. The Impala was built in Canada and then sent to Detroit for outfitting.”

Q: How long can you drive on the tanks before refueling?
A: “I can go up to 500 miles before running out of gas, which means that I can use the vehicle for all of my needs.”

Have a story to share about a CNG vehicle or a question for Craig about his car? Just let us know in the comments.

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