Chrysler urges federal support for natural gas vehicles

Chrysler Group LLC told a U.S. Senate committee Tuesday that the federal government can help boost the number of compressed natural gas powered vehicles on U.S. roads.

Reg Modlin, director of regulator affairs for the Auburn Hills automaker, told the Senate Energy Committee that federal policies are skewed toward electric vehicles.

"Other alternative fuel vehicles, such as battery electric vehicles, are eligible for incentives that create an unlevel playing field for potential retail CNG vehicles. We support technology neutral policies, and providing equivalent incentives for natural gas powered vehicles would create parity between natural gas powered vehicles and other alternative fuel vehicles," Modlin said.

Chrysler and General Motors Co. are offering "bi-fueled" trucks that run on either compressed natural gas or gasoline.

"The bi-fuel CNG Ram 2500 offers these customers the operating range and total cost of ownership necessary to operate their businesses efficiently and profitably. Production has begun, and vehicles will begin arriving at dealerships for fleet customers in August," Modlin said. "The CNG Ram 2500 is built as a bi-fuel vehicle with CNG tanks holding up to an equivalent of 18.2 gallons of gasoline and an 8-gallon reserve gasoline tank."

Honda Motor Co., whose Civic GX runs on compressed natural gas, is the only automaker that builds and sells a natural gas car in the United States.

Ford Motor Co. offers a CNG version of its Transit Connect Taxi and CNG is an option for Ford E-Series vans and F-Series Super Duty trucks.

While about 10 million vehicles worldwide run on natural gas, fewer than 200,000 are in the United States, and about 1,000 fuel stations sell CNG.

According to the California Energy Commission, greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas are 23 percent lower than diesel and 30 percent lower than gasoline. Natural gas produces virtually no particulate emissions, making it cleaner than diesel.

Municipal bus systems have used using compressed natural gas for decades.

"In the light-duty or consumer vehicle sector, the technology-infrastructure 'chicken-and-egg' problem seems to be more difficult to overcome and natural gas consumer vehicles have not yet penetrated the domestic market to any significant degree," said Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.​

This article was first published by The Detroit News.


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