Natural Gas Powered Cars

Although most of the automotive news world focuses on electric and hybrid electric vehicles, the most commonly used alternative fuel vehicles in North America are natural gas powered cars and trucks.

Natural gas has been used in various forms to power vehicles for a very long time. Most modern vehicles are using one of several types of methane (natural gas).

Types of Natural Gas

The gas is the same in each natural gas "type", only the storage method is different.

These include:

  • Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)
  • Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)
  • Propane

These three common types of gas are the same methane (natural gas) stored in different ways. CNG is compressed like any other common gas, putting it into a container under pressure. LPG is natural gas that's been cooled, liquefied (usually under pressure) and stored as a liquid. Propane is natural gas under light pressure.

Each method has advantages and disadvantages over the others, most focusing on safety, storage per cubic liter of space, and transportability. CNG is easy to transport and compresses a relatively high amount of gas into a small space. LPG is harder to transport, since the liquid methane must be kept refrigerated, but allows for more gas to be kept in a smaller space. Propane is the cheapest to store in terms of the container requirements, but requires more space for the same amount of gas.

Natural Gas in Vehicles

Just about every vehicle type imaginable has been configured to run on methane gas at one time or another. Commonly, today, natural gas powers small cars, light trucks, converted diesel vehicles, and so forth.

General Motors has a limited production line of natural gas vehicles for the American market while most gas and diesel vehicles can be converted using after market kits available on the open market.

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