There are over 150,000 natural gas vehicles on U.S. roads today and over 5 million worldwide.
Dedicated natural gas vehicles (NGVs) are designed to run only on natural gas; bi-fuel NGVs have two separate fueling systems that enable the vehicle to use either natural gas or a conventional fuel (gasoline or diesel). In general, dedicated NGVs demonstrate better performance and have lower emissions than bi-fuel vehicles because their engines are optimized to run on natural gas. In addition, the vehicle does not have to carry two types of fuel, thereby increasing cargo capacity and reducing weight.
There are a few light-duty NGVs still available, but if you want a specific type of vehicle, you may want to consider retrofitting a vehicle to an NGV by using an aftermarket conversion system. Heavy-duty NGVs are also available as trucks, buses, and shuttles. Approximately one of every five new transit buses in the United States is powered by natural gas. Learn more about how natural gas vehicles are being used by reading our CNG and LNG Success Stories pages.
As a new twist, tests are being conducted using natural gas vehicles that are fueled with a blend of compressed natural gas and hydrogen.
This model year, auto manufacturers are producing fewer models than in years past. In order to get more vehicle options, you may choose to retrofit your own vehicle. Learn more about aftermarket vehicle conversions.
- Light-duty dedicated NGVs
- Heavy-duty NGVs
Other Natural Gas Vehicle Purchasing Tools:
- Heavy Vehicle and Engine Resource Guide
This is a U.S. Department of Energy guide that provides a comprehensive product catalog of medium- and heavy-duty engines and vehicles with alternative fuel and advanced powertrain options. (March 2004)
- Clean Fleet Guide
This online tool helps fleets decide on which alternative fuel vehicle is right for them.
CNG fueling stations are located in most major cities and in many rural areas. Public LNG stations are limited and used mostly by fleets and heavy-duty trucks. LNG is available through suppliers of cryogenic liquids. You may use the Refueling Station Locator to search for a CNG or LNG refueling station near you.
Natural gas vehicles are just as safe as today’s conventional gasoline and diesel vehicles. They use pressurized tanks, which have been designed to withstand severe impact, high external temperatures, and environmental exposure.
Adequate training is required to operate and maintain natural gas vehicles because they are different than gasoline or diesel vehicles. Training and certification of service technicians is required. Learn more about alternative fuels training programs.
In general, a natural gas vehicle can be less expensive to operate than a comparable conventionally fueled vehicle depending on natural gas prices. Natural gas can cost less than gasoline and diesel (per energy equivalent gallon); however, local utility rates can vary.
Purchase prices for natural gas vehicles are somewhat higher than for similar conventional vehicles. The auto manufacturers’ typical price premium for a light-duty CNG vehicle can be $1,500 to $6,000, and for heavy-duty trucks and buses it is in the range of $30,000 to $50,000. Federal and other incentives can help defray some of the increase in vehicle acquisition costs. In addition, fleets may need to purchase service and diagnostic equipment if access to commercial CNG/LNG vehicle maintenance facilities is not available. Learn more about NGV tax incentives.
Retrofitting a conventional vehicle so it can run on CNG may cost $2,000 to $4,000 per vehicle.
The Clean Fleet Guide has a tool to calculate the costs of operating the CNG Honda Civic GX. Use this NGV Cost Calculator to get an example of long-term benefits of using CNG.
High-pressure tanks that hold CNG require periodic inspection and certification by a licensed inspector. Find a certified cylinder inspector on the CSA – International Web site.
Fleets doing on-site maintenance may need to upgrade their facilities to accomodate NGVs. Costs for upgrading maintenance facilities will depend on the number of modifications required.
Some natural gas vehicle manufacturers now recommend oil changes at intervals twice as long as similar gasoline or diesel models (10,000-12,000 miles). Refer to the vehicle owner’s manual or consult the manufacturer to determine proper maintenance intervals.
- Compared with vehicles fueled by conventional diesel and gasoline, NGVs can produce significantly lower amounts of harmful emissions such as nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and toxic and carcinogenic pollutants. NGVs can also reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas.
- The cost of a gasoline-gallon equivalent of CNG can be favorable compared to that of gasoline, but varies depending on local natural gas prices. Check out the latest edition of the Alternative Fuel Price Report for regional fuel prices.
- Natural gas is mostly domestically produced. In 2004, net imports of natural gas was approximately 15% of the total used, with almost all the imports coming from Canada.
- Some natural gas vehicle owners report service lives 2 to 3 years longer than gasoline or diesel vehicles and extended time between required maintenance.
- Vehicle range for CNG and LNG vehicles generally is less than that of comparable gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles because of the lower energy content of natural gas. Extra storage tanks can increase range, but the additional weight may displace some payload capacity.
- NGV horsepower, acceleration, and cruise speed are comparable with those of an equivalent conventionally fueled vehicle.
- Depending on the number of cylinders and their locations, some payload capacity may be compromised with NGVs.