Green Car Reports - Prototype Natural-Gas Vehicles Use Gasoline as Range Extender

To date, natural-gas vehicles have come with significant compromises.

The high-pressure tanks that hold enough compressed natural gas to run 200 miles or more take up many cubic feet of space in the trunk, load bay, or pickup bed.

But what if you could design a vehicle that had just enough natural gas to run 50 to 75 miles--without any change to its cargo space?

That's just what vehicle-development consultant Carlab designed--four of them, in fact--and we drove the prototypes last month.

The concept is identical to that of a Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car: Run the vehicle's first miles on a cheaper energy source that can be provided at home, then switch to gasoline for those occasions where longer continuous range is needed.

Overnight home fueling

In this case, though, the primary fuel is natural gas rather than electricity, and it powers the combustion engine--meaning no electric motors, battery packs, or electronics are needed.

These cars are best suited, Carlab said, to those regions where natural gas is plentiful, cheap, and already installed in a large numbers of homes for heating or hot water.

For home fueling, the vision is that a small compressor fills the natural-gas tank to its maximum pressure of 3600 psi overnight.

Major appliance makers, including some who attended the drive event, view such a compressor as an opportunity to launch a new category of home appliance sales.

This article was first published by Green Car Reports - Prototype Natural-Gas Vehicles Use Gasoline as Range Extender.

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