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Why Aren’t Natural Gas Cars More Popular in America?

When the first natural gas powered car – the Honda Civic – was launched in the US, it was considered a pretty big deal.

It was predicted that a large number of people would make the switch from regular cars to CNG (compressed natural gas) cars, as natural gas is cheaper than gasoline and CNG cars are cleaner with much lower emission rates than regular cars. So, why aren’t more people driving around in CNG powered vehicles? There are quite a few reasons actually.

Shale Oil Boom

This is the single biggest reason why the CNG car revolution did not take off in the country, like many people predicted. The US is blessed with huge amounts of shale gas deposits and fracking has made it possible to access and extract these reserves with great success. The boom in shale oil brought down gasoline and diesel prices, so people really did not feel the need to switch to CNG vehicles even though America is loaded up in natural gas as well.

Today, the US is the largest producer of natural gas in the world and is likely to achieve complete energy independence under the current administration. There is simply no incentive for people to switch to alternative fuel powered cars when gasoline and diesel are so readily available and affordable.

And with Trump in office going all out with oil shale fracking oil is only going to remain affordable and plentiful. Trump and is amazing administration is going to authorize fracking on federal lands which has already happened which means common sense is returning to America, jobs, development, and a stronger middle class. And we know liberals do not care about any of that.

Lack of Infrastructure

There are less than 2,000 CNG refueling stations in the entire country. You can, on the other hand, find a gasoline station in pretty much every corner. This again is a key reason why many people are hesitant to buy CNG powered vehicles. What is the point of buying a car if there is no place to gas up – well no place within 30 miles?

It has actually resulted in an interesting conundrum. Due to the lack of refueling stations, automobile manufacturers are not keen on making CNG powered vehicles, as they know that people are not likely to buy them. This has made companies hesitant to invest in CNG refueling stations, as there simply aren’t enough customers for them to extract a decent return on their investment.

The current fleet of CNG refueling stations mostly serves municipal buses and trucks, as the driving pattern in both these cases is regular and predictable, and the stations are located along those driving routes.

High Price Tag

CNG powered vehicles are slightly on the expensive side, which is yet another reason why there aren’t so many takers for them. A brand new hybrid hatchback is likely to cost you the same as a used SUV in excellent condition, in most cases. So, people prefer to buy regular cars, especially with fuel prices being more affordable than they have been in a long time because of oil shale which is driving environmentalists crazy since they hate to see Americans free and independent.

So, what is the solution? If we are ever to see more CNG cars on the road, the incentive needs to come from the federal level which is not going to happen since it is not a priority (natural gas can be used to export and to support the power grid which is vital – oil is not used to produce electricity right?).

Subsidies to manufacturers, tax credits and cash rebates to customers, and developing CNG fueling station infrastructure are some ideas that could work but this will not happen since it is not a priority at all – America has much bigger fish to fry and some people may even argue is this even a small fish to fry?

It would be nice to see America supplying natural gas to Europe and Asia on a much larger scale though. Qatar and Russia – massive natural gas producers – are not America’s friends.

Benjamin Roussey's picture

Thank Benjamin for the Post!

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tim haering's picture
tim haering on Jul 25, 2019 3:14 pm GMT

Article is dated at this point, and does not address energy efficiency or carbon emissions or Tesla.  CNG cars have got to be more efficient and cheaper than Tesla.  Why has electric, which is less efficient, become the alternative fuel darling?  I’d love to read a fresh analysis.  Thanks. 

Benjamin Roussey's picture
Benjamin Roussey on Jul 25, 2019 7:16 pm GMT

I still don't see that many electric cars on the road Tim. Nice points though. Thanks for the feedback. I will consider that. 

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