Few jobs allow for the amount of exaggerating (and often outright lying) that politicians seem to get away with on a regular basis. So when Colorado governor John Hickenlooper says that a coalition of 22 states is pledging to buy around 10,000 CNG vehicles, I can’t help but think “What the hell are you waiting for?”
Hickenlooper says that if automakers start building CNG vehicles en masse, his state will be among 21 others who will get in line to start buying between 5,000 and 10,000 CNG vehicles annually. Alas, the governor does not seem to be up on the times; Honda sells the Civic NGV, the market’s only dedicated CNG car, while Ford, GM, and Chrysler each sell dual-fuel versions of their heavy-duty pickups.
In other words, automakers ARE building CNG vehicles…people just aren’t buying them.
See, Hickenlooper fails to understand that while fleet sales are important to car makers, mass market adoption of CNG vehicles is a much more important goal. Given that adding a CNG system to a new car adds thousands to the final MSRP, you end up with some fairly expensive vehicles. So expensive in fact, that Honda is offering to throw in a $3,000 fuel card for those who take the plunge, hoping to soften the retail blow.
Hickenlooper heads a group of 22 states who want to encourage automakers to build and sell CNG vehicles. The problem is that even the high end of Hickenlooper’s estimate of 10,000 annual CNG vehicle sales is a drop in the bucket when you’re talking about vehicles that sell hundreds of thousands of units every year. True, CNG vehicle interest and sales are edging upwards, but not at the kind of pace Hickenlooper apparently wants.
Furthermore, how many of these states have the appropriate CNG infrastructure to support that many vehicles, which breaks down to about 450 vehicles per state? It isn’t like automakers aren’t working towards CNG vehicles…it is just that the lack of infrastructure and high upfront cost is the same thing keeping electric car adoption rates so low. There are CNG vehicles, ready and waiting to be purchased…so I’m not sure what Hickenlooper is getting at here.
The governor’s heart is in the right place…but his head isn’t. If CNG vehicle adoption is to really make an impact in America, it will have to be from the bottom up. Buying a pittance of CNG vehicles isn’t going to encourage major automakers to invest any additional money into CNG vehicles.
Source: Detroit News