Limited-Range Bi-Fuel Vehicles The Next Step For Alt-Fuels?


carlab-3Installing CNG systems on conventional cars is expensive, due in part to the large and intrusive fuel tanks needed to hold even a most amount of natural gas. But vehicle consultant Carlabs has developed a small bi-fuel system that takes advantage of CNG’s low cost, without adding too much to the car’s sale price.

carlab-2Carlabs performed bi-fuel conversions on four vehicles to show the flexibility of their system. A Hyundai Sonata, BMW X3, Ford Mustang GT, and GMC Acadia, using tanks that hold the equivalent of four gallons of natural gas. The tanks were fitted into the space usually reserved for the spare tire, and added between 55 and 75 miles of extra range using a fuel that averages around $2 for a gallon-equivalent. This is in addition to the standard gasoline tanks on each car, which were unaltered. The cars can switch seamlessly between gasoline and natural gas.

These systems could make a great “gateway” alternative-fuel vehicle for people who live in areas where CNG stations are still few and far between. If you lived close to a CNG station, you could putz around town on a much-cheaper fuel source, and then for long journeys fill up on regular gasoline, secure that you’ll never be far from refueling. It gives me security than a pure CNG car like the $26,000 Honda Civic Natural Gas, which was briefly offered with a $3,000 gas card to motivate sales.

Best of all, the systems only cost between $2,600 and $2,900 per car which, while not cheap, is about the cost of adding leather seats or other premium options. Most bi-fuel systems have much larger tanks, driving up costs. Vehicles, like the Ram 2500 HD CNG carry a $11,000 premium for their natural gas systems. This lower cost could conceivably be made up in just a couple of years of driving, especially if gas prices go back up to $4 a gallon and you do a lot of city driving.

Are small bi-fuel systems the key to CNG adoption?

Source: Green Car Reports

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.
  • Jason Carpp

    Bi-fuel? I don’t get it.

  • Robert F.

    But what happens when imports of LNG start in 2015? You will be competing with a world market for NG thats currently at $10-$12 an mbtu whereas in the US now the price is below $4 an mbtu. If you have a fleet or simply drive A LOT between points where CNG is available you might see a ROI before the cost goes up.

  • UncleB

    Ran Gasoline/CNG Ford trucks for years in Quebec – had small compressors in garages to fill tanks (looked like black torpedoes in the dump) Started on Gasoline, cut gasoline in on big hills for more power – otherwise great fuel savings for daily runners.

  • UncleB

    Still awaiting COE models from American manufacturers to give 1/3 more cargo area for commercial value for pick up trucks! Propane and CNG both good alternate fuels and both good for Bi/fuel vehicles.

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