Last summer, Castlen Kennedy went on a 10-day, 2,500 mile roadtrip from Austin, Texas to Boston, Massachusetts. Driving with her friend, Cheryl Dalton, Castlen drove through 13 states in this 10-day period, all in the comfort of a Chevy Tahoe that had been converted to run on natural gas, in addition to gasoline. Over the 2,500 miles, Castlen and Cheryl managed to drive exclusively on natural gas, saving about 22% in total fuel costs and 25% in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions compared to a gasoline vehicle. And, they showed how this alternative fuel can work even in the face of limited infrastructure.
The “chicken and the egg” problem is often cited as being a killer of alternative transportation fuel proposals, including natural gas. For shorter trips, owners can fill their tanks with natural gas or charge their batteries with electricity in their own garage. But, alternative fuel vehicle owners can face difficulties when going on a roadtrip that requires them to travel longer distances.
Today, the transportation sector is optimized for petroleum-based fuels. There are nearly 130,000 fueling stations around the country where on can fill their vehicle with gasoline and (often) diesel. But, in most cases, the infrastructure doesn’t currently exist for alternative fuels on a large scale, a notable exception being the E10 that can be found at almost every filling station thanks to federal regulations. For example, there are only about 1,000 natural gas filling stations throughout the United States, which can pose a problem to natural gas vehicle owners.
During their roadtrip, Castlen and Cheryl showed how one can successfully navigate through the limited infrastructure problem (with a few sacrifices in spontaneity). While their Tahoe had the ability to run on gasoline, they were able to use natural gas exclusively for their 2,500 trek from Austin to Boston. And, since they were followed on their journey by a gasoline-only Chevy Avalanche (running with the same engine and chassis as the Tahoe), Castlen and Cheryl were able to provide a real-world comparison of natural gas versus gasoline for long distance travel. Continue reading