Natural gas vehicles (NGVs) face the recurring themes of all green cars, fuels, and technologies – driving range and access to fuel stations. There is an indication that NGVs are going mainstream, somewhat on the coattails of electric vehicles: Eaton Corp. and General Electric are working on advanced fueling stations for these alternative fuel vehicles.
Eaton plays a key role in development of the electric vehicle charging infrastructure (as does General Electric), and the company just announced it will develop an affordable home refueling station for NGVs. The system will tie into existing home natural gas sources and new compressor technology to deliver the vehicle fuel safely and efficiently. Eaton’s effort is funded in part by a $3.4 million grant from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). The goal is to develop a production prototype for refueling stations that will retail for about one tenth of the cost of currently available systems. The refueling system will use liquid to act as a piston to compress natural gas. Innovative heat exchanger technology will improve efficiency and cut costs dramatically. The development project will be led by Eaton’s Innovation Center teams in Southfield, Mich., and Milwaukee and the Advanced Hydraulics group in Eden Prairie, Minn.
General Electric (GE) has also taken on the NGV home fueling station challenge with a new fueling station for natural gas vehicles being developed in part with government funding through ARPA-E. The GE program has a target of a $500 refueling station that cuts the time required from five-to-eight hours to one hour. The project is a partnership between GE, Chart Industries, and scientists with the University of Missouri.
NGVs are used by a growing number of fleets in the US, with very little presence in retail vehicles beyond the Honda Civic Natural Gas. Home fueling could help demand grow with consumers.