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Future Cars In the Garage 3 - Alt Fuel ICE Vehicles

The engineering and technology behind alternative-fuel internal combustion engines (ICE), such as compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied petroleum (LP), and other fuels has been around long enough that most of the service requirements are already in place.
lpg bottle in trunk
by Aaron Turpen

Future Car Repair: Alt-Fuel ICE Vehicles

The engineering and technology behind alternative-fuel internal combustion engines (ICE), such as compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied petroleum (LP), and other fuels has been around long enough that most of the service requirements are already in place. For these vehicles, as they become more popular, the infrastructure will expand rather than be brand new (as with electrics).

In fact, most diesel repair technician training schools cover CNG and similar engines in their regimen. The Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification program specifically includes CNG and other alt-fuels in its series. Although specialists are usually the norm, in the near-future this may not continue to be the case as high-efficiency diesel engines and methane-burning engines (CNG, LP, etc.) become more common.

Maintenance and Repair Issues With Natural Gas Vehicles

Because natural gas engines burn so cleanly, they do not have many of the issues that gasoline or diesel engines do. Little residue builds up inside the engine block and cylinders and spark plugs do not have the carbon buildup common in other combustion engines. Engine lubricant oils do not tend to become as dirty between changes either, helping them maintain viscosity and thus prolonging engine life.

Most issues with methane-burning vehicles center around fuel delivery and storage. These problems, however, are generally few and far between and normally, a methane-burning vehicle will have a longer lifespan and fewer maintenance issues than will its petroleum-fueled counterparts.

filling up cng

"Most of the issues we deal with surrounding CNG trucks are body and chassis, not engine trouble," says Dave Bell, owner of Dave's Complete Auto Service in Centerville, Utah. He also says that most natural gas vehicles can expect to get 250,000-300,000 miles of engine life without major maintenance and little maintenance.

Maintenance and Repair of H2-Burning Vehicles

Hydrogen (H2) is usually associated with fuel cells in electric vehicles, but it can also be "burned" in a combustion engine. The advantages of this are that H2 is extremely clean. The disadvantage is that it is usually not as efficient as other fuels when used this way. Mazda, specifically, has been testing hydrogen in its unique Wankel Rotary Engine vehicles.

Maintenance issues for H2-burning engines are similar to those with CNG or propane engines, with many of the normal petroleum-centered problems being non-existent. As with methane-based engines, the H2-burning engine and vehicle should have fewer overall maintenance issues during its lifespan, which should also be considerably longer than it's petrol cousins.

Other Articles in This Series

 

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