The key facts:
-A very cheap fuel due to the much lower fuel duty imposed by the Government. Using natural gas as a vehicle fuel can lead to significant running cost savings.
-Natural gas is abundant and delivered to most parts of the UK by a sophisticated network of pipelines thus reducing transport requirements to the point of use.
-To get sufficient volume of energy into a conventional size fuel tank requires that natural gas be compressed, or cooled to liquefy it.
-It has proved particularly popular as a fuel for trucks, buses and larger vehicles. The extra weight and cost of on-board fuel tanks makes conversion to natural gas normally more expensive than LPG for smaller vehicles.
-There are a limited number of public refuelling points for natural gas. Many fleets have chosen to install depot-based refuelling facilities.
-Refuelling options for natural gas range from cheap, slow-fill compressors which can refuel a vehicle overnight to high-tech stations which can refuel a vehicle in a similar time to petrol. Installing a larger refuelling station can be expensive which means the economics work best when 15 or more larger vehicles are involved to spread the cost.
-Natural gas is currently the cheapest of all the fossil-based fuels (including LPG) when fuel costs alone are considered. It costs under 6p per mile to run a smaller vehicle on natural gas (compared with 10p or more on petrol).
-Natural gas engines are far quieter than diesel engines making these vehicles suitable for overnight deliveries and in noise-sensitive locations.
-Most types of vehicle can be built, or converted, to run on natural gas. It is easier and cheaper to convert a vehicle with a petrol engine than one running on diesel.
-The cost of building a larger vehicle to run on natural gas starts from around £10,000. Smaller vehicles can be converted to run as bi-fuel from around £2,000.
What is Natural Gas?
Natural gas is predominantly methane, mainly found in underground (or undersea) fields and often associated with oil. In Britain it comes mainly from large fields in the North Sea and is the same fuel as used by many people for cooking and heating in their homes. Current Vehicles Available Natural gas vehicles can be set up to run either as ‘Dedicated’ vehicles which have natural gas as their only fuel and are spark ignited – like petrol – or ‘Bi-fuel’ vehicles which have two separate fuel systems and can switch between petrol and natural gas at the flick of a switch. Bi-fuel vehicles are sometimes (confusingly) described as ‘dual-fuel’ vehicles. However, strictly speaking, these are vehicles that run on a varying mixture of two fuels, usually diesel and natural gas. Dedicated vehicles will usually offer the best combination of emissions, performance and efficiency, though bi-fuel capability may be the most practical option where vehicles do not always return to their home depot for refuelling. Some dedicated natural gas products are available, particularly amongst the heavier vehicle options. In all cases, gas is stored on the vehicle in special fuel tanks; it is then piped to the engine via special high pressure pipes and introduced into the engine intake tract, controlled by a regulator.