Natural gas as car fuel has pluses, minuses

  • Article by: PAUL BRAND , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 18, 2010 - 4:12 PM

QMy boss and I were discussing alternative energy and we came up with the same question. Is there a movement to use natural gas instead of gasoline in passenger cars? From what little I understand, engines would not need too much modification to do so.

AYou are correct. Modern automotive engines and engine management systems need very little "adjustment" to operate on liquid natural gas (LNG). Vehicles designed, built or modified to do so are called NGVs, or natural gas vehicles. There's little or no drivability or performance differences between the two fuels, but each has advantages and disadvantages.

In terms of NGVs, the advantages are cleaner emissions -- lower carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and unburned hydrocarbons -- and because of this, perhaps, less maintenance and mechanical wear and tear. Fuel costs are typically more stable and about one-third lower than gasoline. There may also be a safety advantage because fuel storage tanks on NGVs are substantially stronger than gas tanks on most motor vehicles.

Disadvantages? First and foremost, LNG's availability. There are refueling stations, but they're few and far between compared with gasoline stations on nearly every corner. A century of gasoline distribution infrastructure development is hard to beat.

Also, NGVs tend to have less passenger room because the fuel storage containers are larger, heavier and occupy more space. That means less range, or miles-per-tankful, than a comparable size/power automobile.

It's also important to recognize that natural gas, like petroleum/gasoline, is not a renewable resource. U.S. natural gas reserves are large but not unlimited.

Several car companies have developed NGVs, and a number of municipalities, law enforcement agencies, power companies and other large fleet operators have operated large numbers of NGVs. That said, they're still just a minuscule percentage of the total number of motor vehicles.

Personally, I think the biggest factor is convenience -- or lack thereof. If LNG fueling stations were as common as gasoline stations, the public would be far more receptive to NGVs.

QEvery few days my 1995 Nissan Maxima would not turn over when I turned the key. No sound, no clicking, no nothing. The shop replaced the battery, but the next day the same issue. I fiddled around and then the car started. Took it back and they replaced the starter. Today, the same thing happened. Please help.

AWell, you now know the starter and battery weren't the problem, right? Anytime a vehicle suffers from an intermittent "no crank" condition, the first suspects, in order of probability, are battery cables, connections and grounds, ignition switch and park/neutral or clutch interlock safety switch.

If by "fiddling" you mean wiggling the key while holding the switch in the "start" position, suspect the switch itself. If you mean wiggling the shift lever within its range of movement in "park" and/or "neutral," suspect the P/N safety switch.

If, when the engine won't crank, connecting a single jumper cable from the positive battery terminal and then to the positive terminal on the starter motor causes the engine to crank over -- but not start since the ignition is "off" -- the problem is likely with the switches and/or harness. If this doesn't crank the engine over, it's likely a poor ground connection between the engine/drivetrain/chassis and the negative battery terminal. Take all safety precautions before this test by making sure the ignition is "off," parking brake is set and the transmission is in "park" or "neutral."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cleveland - WP: C. Allen 4 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: G. Holland 3
Baltimore - LP: W. Chen 0 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: M. Pineda 5
Kansas City - WP: D. Duffy 2 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Carrasco 0
Seattle - LP: J. Paxton 4 FINAL
Toronto - WP: J. Happ 14
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Bassitt 2 FINAL
Detroit - LP: K. Lobstein 0
Pittsburgh - WP: F. Liriano 1 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: A. Harang 0
Houston 3 Top 9th Inning
Texas 4
St. Louis 8 Top 9th Inning
Chicago Cubs 0
Arizona 6 Top 8th Inning
Minnesota 2
LA Angels 1 Bottom 2nd Inning
Oakland 6
San Francisco 2 Bottom 3rd Inning
Los Angeles 0
Colorado 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
San Diego 1
Chicago 24 4th Qtr
NY Jets 16
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Buffalo 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Green Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Tennessee 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Carolina 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Detroit 9/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Tampa Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Miami 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Oakland
Jacksonville 9/28/14 3:05 PM
San Diego
Atlanta 9/28/14 3:25 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 9/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
New Orleans 9/28/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Ottawa 2 FINAL
NY Islanders 3
Ottawa 5:00 PM
NY Islanders
New Jersey 5 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Detroit 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 0 2nd Prd 20:00
Philadelphia 0
Washington 4 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
St. Louis 2 3rd Prd 4:05
Dallas 4
Anaheim 1 3rd Prd 19:31
Colorado 2
Colorado 0 2nd Prd
Anaheim 2
Los Angeles 3 2nd Prd
Arizona 1
Arizona 0 1st Prd 9:48
Los Angeles 1
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close