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Published on July 31st, 2009 | by Susan Kraemer

31

Natural Gas Conversions Could Cost a Couple Hundred

Green Up Your Gas Hog

But they don’t. It costs between $12,500 to $22,500 to convert a gasoline-powered car to natural gas in an autoshop. That old gas hog just can’t be greened up for cheap. Now. But it could be.

Natural gas conversions don’t not have to cost that much: there is no technological problem driving what it truly needs to cost for auto mechanics to make a living at it. The true cost is only a few hundred dollars in parts and labor. The reason for this incredible difference is exceedingly interesting, as Robert Rapier notes in a well researched piece over at The Oil Drum on  the feasibility of switching from Gasoline to Natural Gas.

Not only is the reason interesting, but embedded in the reason is the simple way to solve it. Then converting cars to Natural Gas could cost what it actually costs; just a few hundred dollars – an hour’s work; a few parts.

We could cut our very hoggy national carbon footprint by switching to natural gas which we now have an abundant supply of if these new natural gas reserve numbers are even remotely accurate. So we could drive  less hoggy on somewhat cleaner fuel. And – (supposedly) in the carpool lane

The VP of The Auto Channel claims that this cost is unnecessary:

CNG conversion costs are only high because of an old EPA licensing requirement, says Marc Raush:

“For an individual (or shop) to be licensed to do a conversion, the person must pay $10,000 per year, per engine type, per year of manufacture. So that if a conversion shop wanted to do conversions in 2009 for Camrys for the years 1995 to 2005, the shop owner would have to pay the government $100,000 in licensing fees. “

“Then, if he wanted to do conversions on the same models in 2010, he would have to pay the $100,000 again, even though they are the exact same models and engines that he has been licensed on already. And if there is more than one engine involved, i.e., a 6-cylinder and 8-cylinder, the cost would double.”

“Therefore, if a shop owner wanted to do 10 model years of Camrys and Corollas and Celicas, and well as Honda Accords and Civics, unless there were common engines being used in these five models the licensing cost (for just one engine per) would be a half million dollars, which would have to be paid again in 2010.

Licensing fees of a few million dollars every year would certainly dissuade most shops from going into the conversion business!

“The cost of the conversion kits are actually relatively inexpensive. If there was a sensible licensing fee (or no fee) the cost for the work could be just a few hundred dollars.”

“These fees are, needless to say, ridiculous and are only there to ensure that many don’t get done (thanks to the gasoline lobby).”

The nay-sayers will claim that there’s another reason many don’t get done. Those who typically poo-poo the possibility of the status quo ever changing say there’s not enough trained CNG conversion mechanics.

But how many trained auto mechanics were there when we switched from horses to horsepower? Nada. But, the demand for them created them in due time. I’ll bet there’s no shortage of mechanics that would be willing to learn conversion if it wasn’t a prohibitively expensive line of work to get into.

Anyone inclined to train for this new green – but grimy – job could contact the first community colleges teaching CNG conversions in Rio Hondo and Yuba College in California.  Or the University of West Virginia; which has a great automotive program (including these conversions) that they’ve “syndicated” to other colleges around the country.

There’s a good chance that this ridiculous licensing requirement could be overturned by a more proactive congress than we’ve had in some time.

That’s because this is very low hanging fruit in the fight to lower carbon and be energy independent – and without spending a dime. This is exactly what’s on the almost impossible yet Must Do List for this congress – so you could do something about this:




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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today, PV-Insider , SmartGridUpdate, and GreenProphet. She has also been published at Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.



  • Jeff Clark

    Finally some great advice on how to improve our environment and put people back to work in our country! Where is the petition to back this program?Has anyone looked at what the immediate impact this could have for our country if the laws where changed to allow conversions to natural gas!!!Wake up America to the reality that driving around in clown cars run on electricity is not feasible to everybody. We need options and the more immediate the better.

  • Jeff Clark

    Finally some great advice on how to improve our environment and put people back to work in our country! Where is the petition to back this program?Has anyone looked at what the immediate impact this could have for our country if the laws where changed to allow conversions to natural gas!!!Wake up America to the reality that driving around in clown cars run on electricity is not feasible to everybody. We need options and the more immediate the better.

  • ChuckL

    We should require our elected congressional personnel to void two bad laws before they are allowed to pass a new law.

    The nation must agree that the voided law was actually bad.

  • ChuckL

    We should require our elected congressional personnel to void two bad laws before they are allowed to pass a new law.

    The nation must agree that the voided law was actually bad.

  • http://gasburner.blogspot.com/ gasburner

    I think I’ll just stick to hypermilling until the price comes down.

  • http://gasburner.blogspot.com/ gasburner

    I think I’ll just stick to hypermilling until the price comes down.

  • Juan Jose Borroel

    A very good answer to this problem could be: cross the border, come to Mexico and for $1000 USD give or take a few bucks, you can have tour HUMMER converted to natural gas, and keep the option to run on gasoline if required!! ;)

  • Juan Jose Borroel

    A very good answer to this problem could be: cross the border, come to Mexico and for $1000 USD give or take a few bucks, you can have tour HUMMER converted to natural gas, and keep the option to run on gasoline if required!! ;)

  • think about it

    Old and busted: running you car on one fossil fuel.

    New hotness: running your car on a different fossil fuel?

  • think about it

    Old and busted: running you car on one fossil fuel.

    New hotness: running your car on a different fossil fuel?

  • Odin

    The nice thing about natural gas is we can make it at waste processing centers (i.e. – turn our poop into fuel instead of releasing carbon dioxide directly back to the environment without any use or benefit). Remember the pigs in “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” – Tina Turner driving an Aussie hotrod on fermented pigcrap gas has to mean something!

  • Odin

    The nice thing about natural gas is we can make it at waste processing centers (i.e. – turn our poop into fuel instead of releasing carbon dioxide directly back to the environment without any use or benefit). Remember the pigs in “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” – Tina Turner driving an Aussie hotrod on fermented pigcrap gas has to mean something!

    • Mark Stockman

      Back during the end of horse-and-buggy days, NYC was scavenging enough methane from their sewer system to run gas (not gasoline) engines and generate electricity.

  • Odin

    The nice thing about natural gas is we can make it at waste processing centers (i.e. – turn our poop into fuel instead of releasing carbon dioxide directly back to the environment without any use or benefit). Remember the pigs in “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” – Tina Turner driving an Aussie hotrod on fermented pigcrap gas has to mean something!

  • El Diablo

    I suppose Congress will act on this issue the moment Saudi Arabia finally decides, at their whim, to stop exporting oil (probably due to peak oil effects).

    Then, we’ll probably see an “emergency” explosion of CNG conversions as a quick way to get back up and running with existing automobiles.

    In any case, I think the best strategy is to, as quickly as possible, move to EV’s and Biofuel burning hybrids that are at least carbon-neutral, reserving CNG for use in backup electric power generation, where it’s most efficiently and cleanly used and CO2 sequestration of it’s emissions can be done much cheaper.

    Perhaps this is the strategy our leaders are actually following, hence the suppression of CNG conversions? That would make sense…

    • The Highwayman

      Only Idiots favor so-called electric vehicles! if you ever bothered to get off your ass and look beyond the wall socket, you would find a GASP OH MY GOSH Coal fired power plant generating your electricity. Why not just ressurect the old Stanley Steamers and burn the coal directly. You can drive and momma can shovel, then on the way home y’all could switch

      • http://importantmedia.org/members/joborras/ Jo Borras

        Except for where it’s wind, hydro, nuclear, solar, etc. Don’t you hate it when things like reality and facts get in the way of your preconceptions? :: yawn :: Please have something more interesting to talk about for your next comment, mmKay?

  • El Diablo

    I suppose Congress will act on this issue the moment Saudi Arabia finally decides, at their whim, to stop exporting oil (probably due to peak oil effects).

    Then, we’ll probably see an “emergency” explosion of CNG conversions as a quick way to get back up and running with existing automobiles.

    In any case, I think the best strategy is to, as quickly as possible, move to EV’s and Biofuel burning hybrids that are at least carbon-neutral, reserving CNG for use in backup electric power generation, where it’s most efficiently and cleanly used and CO2 sequestration of it’s emissions can be done much cheaper.

    Perhaps this is the strategy our leaders are actually following, hence the suppression of CNG conversions? That would make sense…

  • Lynn

    This is why people need to wake up to what the EPA is really all about. NOT the environment, but how to get between average people and their wallets.

  • Lynn

    This is why people need to wake up to what the EPA is really all about. NOT the environment, but how to get between average people and their wallets.

  • Lynn

    This is why people need to wake up to what the EPA is really all about. NOT the environment, but how to get between average people and their wallets.

  • http://Web Will Harden

    This is an outrage! This is like the electric car that Bush killed in 2001 because the oil companies were scared of way everybody liked the EV1. If we are ever going to shake off the need to pay these ragheads in the mideast billions to get our gas, we need to start here, using NG that we produce in the good old US. I gotta write my senator.

  • http://Web Savannah

    Terrific article! I’m reposting it on my blog. Thanks so much!

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  • West Houston Geo

    Before you go to Mexico for a CNG conversion, remember that your car has to pass inspection every year. If your conversion was not done by a licensed shop, I don’t think it will pass. Also, NG filling stations will be equally corralled by the feds and will demand to see your papers before the sell you gas.
    Since this was written, NG prices have fallen by a third, again.
    Call or write your congressman aout this subject.

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  • http://gravatar.com/jerk jerkclayton

    You couldn’t even buy a NG fuel cyclinder that could thandle the PSI required to make that car go more than 30 miles for less the $1000. The writer obviously has no idea how to work on a vehicle cause if you did and it was so simple do it yourself.

  • Jeffrey Liberty

    BS. In Ohio I knew a company that was installing conversion kits in 1975 for $1500. Companies doing this are few and some are really scalping people. The materials cost little and the labor even less.

  • Mark Stockman

    I have worked with fleet vehicles running CNG, and there are a ton of advantages. The oil doesn’t get contaminated, so you only change the oil every 10,000 miles or so. And engine life is greatly extended. To get the most benefit, you do need to go dedicated CNG (not bi-fuel) and crank up the compression ratio (CNG is higher octane than gasoline.) And the tanks are a bit bulky. But with the Hondas we run, you only lose half the trunk, and you get the same range (~300 miles) as the gasoline version. Cheaper fuel, cleaner, more power from the same size engine- sounds like a win to me. Of course, the Government won’t let us have it.

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