CNG Vehicle Progress in China

According to Forbes.com:

In December, 1999, China’s National Science and Technology Ministry (NSTM) and State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) set 10 percent as a target for clean vehicles as a portion of the overall vehicle population, and set a target of 40 to 50 percent for taxis and buses. Additionally, the policy called for the launch of clean vehicle model zones in 19 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Chongqing.

As part of this program, city governments in China have implemented policies to encourage the industrialization of CNG passenger cars, LNG heavy-duty trucks and engines, LPG engines, and direct-injection LNG engines. Measures that have been used include offering preferential gas price policies and constructing refill stations. At the end of 2010, more than 80 cities across China had gas refilling facilities and the number of CNG/LNG refill stations totaled more than 1,000. During the course of China’s 12th Five-Year Plan, it is projected that an additional 1,000 refill stations will be constructed. Finally, municipal governments have been working with automobile companies and industry research institutions to accelerate the development of new technologies. Continue reading

Ford F-250 bi-fuel to debut at Moab Off-Road Safari

NGV Global News: Venchurs Vehicle Systems (VVS), which offers both compressed natural gas (CNG) conversions for Ford and off road products/specialty vehicle builds through its VWerks division, will combine the two worlds at the upcoming Moab Easter Jeep Safari, showcasing the performance capabilities of both programs. According to PT Muldoon, VP of Engineering for VVS, CNG is currently focused towards the fleet industry and Moab brings about an opportunity to introduce CNG to a new market of dedicated off-road enthusiasts.

VVS, a QVM (qualified vehicle modifier) for Ford offering both bi-fuel and CNG dedicated conversions for F-250/350 trucks, will showcase its bi-fuel system at Moab (March 31-April 1). In the US state of Utah, Moab is often referred to as the “Mecca of four-wheeling” making this event the perfect place to showcase the trucks’ performance capabilities. A CNG filling station was recently opened there. Continue reading

GM to offer bi-fuel CNG trucks this April (2012)

Next month, GM will begin taking orders for a new bi-fuel CNG vehicle. According to the Star-Telegram:

General Motors plans to begin taking orders in April for pickups that run on both gasoline and compressed natural gas, potentially reducing costs for users.

The Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 HD extended-cab pickups will be offered with a 6.0-liter, V-8 engine that can “seamlessly” transition between natural gas and gasoline, the Detroit-based automaker said today.
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CNG Ram 2500 Available by July 2012

Chrysler has announced that it will release a CNG Ram 2500 by July of this year. NGV Global reports:

Although a small amount of gasoline is used during engine startup, the Ram CNG runs exclusively on CNG. If the cylinders are emptied, the vehicle will automatically switch to gasoline. A CNG-specific gauge sits adjacent to the standard gasoline gauge in the instrument cluster.

CNG-only range is estimated to be 410 kilometres (255 miles), while the backup supply of the 30L gasoline tank extends the range to 590 total kilometres (367 miles).

The two ultra-strong 4.6 cu.-ft. CNG tanks are located in the forward portion of the Ram’s 8-foot pickup bed. Both tanks are mounted to the frame and covered by a painted 50 ksi high-strength steel cover. The CNG filler connection is located next to the gasoline fuel neck, accessed through the Ram’s fuel filler door.

The CNG tanks provide a gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE) of 68.9 litres (18.2 gallons). GGEs are calculated as having the same energy equivalent as one gallon (U.S.) of gasoline.

Read the whole article on the CNG Ram 2500 here.

Fuelmaker Becomes a More Viable Option

BRC Headquarters in Chisiamo, Italy

Many longtime dabblers in the home-fill CNG market have feelings about Fuelmaker products that border on visceral hatred.

In the past customers have had to deal with indifferent quality control, price gouging, insanely restrictive sales policies and a customer service manner that had the same sort charm and efficiency that might have marked the Moscow Driver’s Licence Bureau during the Brezhnev era.

This guaranteed that anyone who owned a Fuelmaker product was going to pay dearly for that fact in every way the company could invent. Some have said that the only people who willingly bought a Fuelmaker were those who weren’t skilled enough to adapt a Coltri or some other high pressure air compressor to fill their CNG tanks.

However Fuelmaker has come under Italian ownership in recent years. BRC corporation purchased the assets of Fuelmaker in May of 2009. It’s taken a couple of years to bring sanity to Fuelmaker, but BRC has changed some of its pricing and policies recently, and that change is for the better. While it could be argued that the changes are not wholly altruistic, but rather have been produced by a shaky Italian economy hungry for paying business coupled with the fact that everybody and his uncle is clamoring to enter the CNG compressor market. We at the CNG Times don’t particularly care what caused this volte-face. We are simply pleased that it has happened.

The price of the FMQ-2-3600 home fill unit (.9 gge/hour when it’s in a good state of repair) has dropped significantly. So has the price of wear items like fill hoses.

Perhaps the biggest change is that the dreaded 4,000-hour-blue-screen-of-death has been dropped altogether. Formerly a Fuelmaker product would shut down without warning when the internal timer hit 4,000 hours. You had to uninstall the unit (or have it uninstalled) and ship it to a rebuilder. Now Fuelmaker will let them run beyond 4,000 hours. The compressor will continue to run until it fills so slowly that the customer is ready to send it in.

Another significant change is that the compressor heads will no longer be rebuilt. These are now consumable items. They are replaced with brand new heads, and the old ones are destroyed in the presence of a factory representative in order to insure that no black market for used heads ever develops. The cost of the head plus replacement? $1600 plus shipping, according to the information we were able to glean. That, too, is a sharp drop in price.

There’s still some improvements to make. We’re still stuck with the policy which says that only a Fuelmaker dealer can install the unit, and if he has to drive seven hours to get to your house, you’re going to have to pay him for the 14 hours of drive time plus the installation. Like most Europeans, the new owners of Fuelmaker don’t really seem to comprehend the vastness of this country. Some of Fuelmaker’s best potential customers are 500-600 miles (800-960 kilometers) from an authorized dealer. Would they really expect a customer in Frankfurt to pay for a technician to drive up from Rome to install a compressor? Yet that is precisely the situation facing the U.S. market. That makes an already expensive item prohibitively expensive. That is killing sales for the company, and the sooner they realize that, the better it will be for all involved.

In reality there is no need for this policy. Any licensed HVAC technician can easily install a Fuelmaker unit with a little bit of training and a modest investment in equipment. A better strategy going forward would be to allow the regional dealers to keep their sales business, but develop training seminars and a network of licensed local installers. Couple that with consumer financing or an aggressive leasing program, and Fuelmaker could do very, very well in the U.S. market. Under such a regime, dealers could easily make up in sales volume what they would lose in installation labor.

Having said that, the new policies are a giant step in the right direction. We at the CNG Times salute BRC for making these important and substantive changes.

What the world most needs now, in this era of $100+ oil, is cheaper natural gas compression. What we need most is a “Model T Ford” CNG compressor. What is required is a CNG compressor that, like the Tin Lizzie, is not very sophisticated or particularly powerful, but is reliable and within reach of the common person. Whoever captures that market will be positioned to become a powerhouse in the global refueling market for the next century.  BRC has made some significant strides towards that goal. Ben fatto, BRC!

An All-New CNG Vehicle for the North American Market

SEER Natural Gas Vehicle Coming to the U.S. in 2013

Vision Motor Company (VMC), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Noble Automotive Group, Inc., designs, assembles and markets vehicles which run on 100% low-cost clean-burning compressed natural gas (CNG). Since 2008 the company has been working to develop a new range of natural gas vehicles for the North American automotive market, and is currently awaiting certification from the US Environmental Protection Agency for its small car product – the “SEER ngv”. The car carries the equivalent of 5.4 gasoline gallons of fuel in four cylinders, enough to drive more than 240 miles (about 390 kms).

Sourcing the vehicle body (Glider) from China and adding the drive train and CNG system in the US keeps the cost low, Bob Smith (CEO of VMC) explained to NGV Global News.  The car will retail for USD $17,900 for the manual transmission and $18,900 for the automatic transmission. Continue reading

F250 Powerstroke Natural Gas Conversion Project Pt. 6

Click here for Part One

The pyrometer installation was by far the most frustrating part of this conversion project. The best place to locate your pyrometer probe is in one of the exhaust manifolds before the turbo. That’s going to give you the most accurate reading about what’s going on inside your engine.  The exhaust gasses spend some heat energy when they spin the turbo, so putting the probe after the turbo is going to generate artificially low temperature data. I recommend drilling the hole as close to the head as you can reasonably get it, and I recommend going in from the bottom, rather than the top of the manifold, if you can. Most of your drill shavings fall to the ground that way, rather than ending up in the hole. Unfortunately I was unable to drill from the bottom without removing the manifold, and being pressed for time, I chose to drill where I could most easily drill. The location I chose was on the left bank of cylinders between the #3 and #5 cylinders. Continue reading

LNG Infrastructure Developing Fast

150 LNG Truck Fueling Stations Enabling Goods Movement
Coast-to-Coast and Border-to-Border Anticipated by End of 2013

The route plan for the first phase of 150 new LNG fueling stations for America’s Natural Gas Highway (ANGH) was unveiled on January 12, by Clean Energy Fuels Corp., provider of natural gas fuel for transportation in North America.  The company has identified 98 locations and anticipates having 70 stations open by the end of 2012 in 33 states.

Many of the fueling stations will be co-located at Pilot-Flying J Travel Centers already serving goods movement trucking through an exclusive agreement with Pilot to build, own and operate natural gas fueling facilities at agreed-upon travel centers. Pilot-Flying J is the nation’s largest truck-stop operator with more than 550 retail properties in 47 states.

Major highway segments planned for early opening include, among others, those linking San Diego-Los Angeles-Riverside-Las Vegas; the Texas Triangle (Houston-San Antonio-Dallas/Ft. Worth); Los Angeles-Dallas; Houston-Chicago; Chicago-Atlanta; and a network of stations along major highways in the mid-west region (Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Montana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama) to serve the heavy trucking traffic in the area.

Scheduled for completion during 2012 and 2013, the 150 first-phase stations coincide with the expected arrival of new natural gas truck engines well suited for heavy-duty, over-the-road trucking. Engine manufacturers and original equipment truck manufacturers such as Cummins-Westport, Kenworth, Peterbilt, Navistar, Freightliner and Caterpillar are expected to have Class-8 trucks available in engine sizes allowing for varied road and driving requirements. Continue reading

F250 Powerstroke Natural Gas Conversion Project Pt. 5

Click here for Part 1, here for Part 2, here for Part 3, and here for Part 4

I suppose it’s not necessary to leave the wiring until last, but I have chosen to do so. The wiring process is very simple if you’re only installing the kit. The kit comes with two crimp-type wire connectors, a switch, and a length of red wire. One of the two wires on the conversion kit solenoid is a ground wire and the unit is meant to be grounded via one of the bolts that mounts the kit to the bed. The other one is the positive voltage to energize the solenoid.

Find a source of engine-on-only power somewhere, either under the dash or under the hood. Just turn the key on to the run position, and ground your test light. Poke around at electrical connections until you find one that’s lights up the test light. Turn off the key and check the connection again. If there’s no voltage present, you’ve found your power source. I chose to connect to a solenoid under the hood.

I’m a little bit hyper about my wiring connections because there’s no problem more maddening to find than an intermittent ground or something like that. For that reason I don’t like crimp connectors and I loathe Scotchloks. I’m a big fan of solder and heat shrink tubing wherever I can use it, especially when the connection might be exposed to the weather. I also like ground connections to be made under the hood, at least. I’ve seen some body grounds get pretty unreliable as the vehicle ages and rusts, especially grounds toward the rear of the vehicle. But the body grounding under the hood is usually pretty decent. So I chose to solder and heat shrink all my connections at the conversion kit in the bed, and ground my circuit to an existing body ground on the firewall of the truck. I elected to use the crimp connectors under the dash, and to connect the wire to the fittings under the hood.

Continue reading