Natural Gas Vehicles Are Beating Out Electric Vehicles for Consumers Top Pick

Consumers have been selecting natural gas vehicles over electric vehicles at a rate of two to one. By year end there will be approximately 123,600 natural gas vehicles on our nation’s road as compared to 65,500 electric vehicles. Despite the lack of marketing or fueling infrastructure for natural gas, it is now the first choice among consumers looking to alternative ways to fuel their vehicles.

The drop in natural gas prices has helped fuel the demand; beating out the more heavily marketed and federally funded electric vehicles (EVs). Four years ago President Obama unveiled his vision of 1 million plug-in vehicles on U.S. roads by the 2015 and pumped $5 billion into funding for electric cars. In February the Obama admiration proposed the tax credit for plug-in vehicle be increased from $7,500 to $10,000 and also extend the credit to other alternative vehicles like natural gas.

In response to the higher demand from motorist, Honda began showing it’s Honda Civic GX natural gas vehicle in car showrooms across the country, where previously it had only been marketed as a fleet vehicle. It is currently the only NGV sedan on the market. Honda says the marketing is paying off big for them, and sales of the vehicle are continuing to break new monthly highs. Although the choices are few for compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles, it should be pointed out that conventional gasoline and diesel vehicles can be retrofitted for CNG. If natural gas is available at your home you can install a pumping station inside your garage.

CNG is safe or at least safer than gasoline, Although CNG is flammable, it has a narrow flammability range, and if released by accident it quickly disperses making it less likely to ignite than gasoline. CNG is also non-toxic, it dissipates when released and will not leak to contaminate soil and water supplies.

The natural gas used in vehicles is classified into two types compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas(LNG). According to fueleconomy.gov “eighty-seven percent of the natural gas consumed in the U.S.is also produced here; which greatly reduces are dependency on foreign imports. It is 60%-90% less polluting than traditional fuels. With 30%-40% less greenhouse gas emissions and is less expensive than gasoline. At the present time the main disadvantages of CNG vehicles is the lack of facilities available to pump the gas, fewer miles to the tank and few choice available by auto makers.

All gas vehicles depend on fossil fuel. The natural gas obtained from drilling is a fossil fuel and while no fossil fuels are considered to be renewable resources because of the millions of years needed for the earth to produce them; natural gas is primarily methane and methane gas can be produced as a renewable resource. Methane gas is currently being collected from landfills and produced from rotting vegetation and animal manure.

CNG vehicles are cheaper to operate than conventional vehicles and burn cleaner than gasoline vehicles. Electric vehicles running on electricity alone put out “0” emissions at the tail pipe, but the electricity providing that power is generated at power plants running off fossil fuels. The U.S. Department of Energy states that “PHEVs (plugin hybrid electric vehicles) and EVs (electric vehicles) typically have a well-to-wheel emissions advantage over similar conventional vehicles running on gasoline or diesel.

However, in communities that depend heavily on conventional fossil fuels for their electricity generation, PEVs (Plugin Electric Vehicles) may not demonstrate a well-to-wheel emissions benefit.”

The switch from diesel to CNG is the larger trend for cities and municipalities across the country. The U.S Department of Transportation provides grants for upgrading mass transit and many cities are already using those dollars to advance their fleets over to CNG vehicles.

The future for NGV remains uncertain; although the advantages seem clear, reduce dependency on foreign oil, cleaner energy for the environment, lower cost to fuel. The largest drawback is the lack of infrastructure for refueling. As government agencies along with private fleet owned vehicles begin to convert vehicles from gasoline to NGV the private sector will also begin to benefit from their expansion. Improvements in refueling technology and engine performance will also soon follow. It will likely be the consumers, who ultimately decide our next energy of choice.

Mitsubishi Recalls 14,700 Electric Vehicles

In yet another body blow for the electric vehicle industry it was today revealed that Mitsubishi Motors Corporation is recalling 14,700 electric vehicles due to brake problems. These issues are exclusively associated with the company’s electric vehicles and even though this recall is relatively small compared to the number of petrol vehicles which have been recalled over the years it is still around 50% of overall sales of these particular vehicles.

What cars are being recalled?

The company has revealed that 3,400 i-MiEV EVs and 2,400 MINICAB-MiEV vehicles have been recalled in Japan with around 8,900 i-MiEV vehicles also being recalled in Europe. While there have been no accidents directly associated with the ongoing brake problem the company has obviously erred on the side of caution with regards to such an important aspect of the vehicle. It is believed that only one particular part of the braking system has been found to have problems and this will be relatively easy for the company to fix once the cars have been recalled.

What is the cost of this recall?

While the number of vehicles set to be recalled is relatively small, and the direct financial implications are relatively minor in the overall picture, it is more the image of the company and EVs which will suffer. If you look back towards the end of 2012 we had the issue of the Nissan Leaf battery problem which was headline news for some time and did more damage to the electric vehicle industry. This fresh issue will be headline news for the next few days at a time when the electric vehicle industry is looking to penetrate the worldwide consumer sector.

Does this impact Mitsubishi’s electric vehicle strategy?

While there is no doubt this has done short-term damage to the reputation of Mitsubishi it is also worth noting that the company has erred on the side of caution and recalled these vehicles before there have been any accidents. The issue itself relates to the distance at which a vehicle will travel when under braking which has been extended due to problems with an electric pump. Historically we have seen scandals in other areas of the automobile industry where issues and problems have been ignored for some time but Mitsubishi has reacted as soon as possible.

In some ways we should be taking our hats off to the company for the speed at which it has reacted, the fact that no accidents have been directly linked the problem and the fact that vehicles will be repaired at no cost to the owner.

One step forward, two steps back with the electric vehicle industry

At this moment in time it seems as if the electric vehicle market takes one step forward and two steps back with a number of high-profile issues having grabbed the headlines. This does mask to a great extent developments in technology and battery power which have made the modern-day electric vehicle very different to that of its counterpart just 10 years ago or even five years ago. Once these “issues” have been ironed out then we should see more positive feedback and more positive headlines about the industry although at the moment Mitsubishi Electric Vehicles are certainly grabbing more than their fair share of media attention.

Conclusion

It will be interesting to see how consumers react to this latest difficulty with an electric vehicle as it does nothing for the sector’s public relations. It is very easy to get scared about certain issues such as this announced by Mitsubishi but the fact is that the company highlighted the problem, there have been no accidents and all vehicles affected have been recalled. Whether the speed at which new electric vehicles are released to the market slows down in the short to medium term, with perhaps more safety checks and testing required, remains to be seen.

Electric Vehicle History

Electric vehicles have been around for many years, even though the general public think that electrically powered vehicles are a recent invention. This is because only in recent years these type of vehicles have become more widely known due to being considered as possible alternatives to vehicles powered by combustion engines in an effort to reduce emissions that contribute to Global warming.

An electrically powered small scale model car invented in 1828 in Hungary is considered by many as being the first invented electric vehicle. Others consider an electric powered carriage invented in the 1830’s in Scotland by Robert Anderson as the first electrical powered vehicle. Another small scale electric car was designed by Professor Stratingh and built by Christopher Becker, his assistant, in Holland in 1835. Thomas Davenport also built a small electric car in 1835. He also invented the first DC motor built in the US.

Unfortunately battery technology was not advanced enough to justify further development of these type of vehicles back then. It was not until the late 1890’s that the first true passenger electric vehicle was built by William Morrison in the US. In fact in the years 1899 and 1900 more electric vehicles were sold than other types of vehicles like gasoline and steam powered vehicles in the US.

In the 1900’s electric powered vehicles had many advantages as compared to their competitors. They didn’t have the smell, vibration as well as noise as did the gasoline vehicles. Also, changing gears on gasoline vehicles was the most complicated part of driving, while electrical automobiles did not require gear changes. Steam-powered cars additionally had no gear shifting, but they suffered from long start-up times of up to 45 minutes on cold early mornings.

Steam vehicles had less range before requiring water than an electric vehicle’s range on a single charge. The best roads of the period were in town, restricting most travel to local commuting, which was well suitable for electric vehicles, since their range was limited. The electric car was the preferred alternative of many because it did not require to manually turn the hand crank to start the engine as the gasoline vehicles needed and there was no wrestling with a gear shifter to change gears.

During World War I, the cost of petrol went through the roof contributing to the popularity of electric cars. This lead to the development of the Detroit Electric which started production in 1907. The car’s range between battery recharging was about 130km (80 miles). The range depended on exactly what type of battery came with the vehicle. The typical Detroit Electric was actually powered by a rechargeable lead acid battery, which did exceptionally well in cold weather.

But the popularity of the electric car quickly came to an end. With better roads being built not only within cities, but also connecting them, the need for longer range vehicles grew. This made the electric car an impractical means of transportation. Also the newly discovered oil in the state of Texas in the US which brought the price of gas down considerably, along with the electric starter invention in 1912 which eliminated the need for a hand crank, made the gasoline vehicle the vehicle of choice. And with Henry Ford making them extremely affordable to the general public by mass producing them, the fate of the electric vehicle was sealed for many years.

It wasn’t until the 1990’s that electric vehicles started resurfacing. With the Global warming issue, the exorbitant prices of imported crude oil and legislation for smog reduction in cities, electric vehicles not only resurfaced but this time are here to stay. One of the main reasons contributing to the re-birth of the electric car is the advance in battery technology. The lithium-ion battery packs and the nickel metal hybrid battery packs are much lighter than previous batteries and can hold enough charge to power a vehicle for 100’s of Miles at high speeds between charges making electrical vehicles efficient and practical.