Frequently Asked Questions

Natural Gas Vehicles Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is a natural gas vehicle? A. A natural gas vehicle (NGV) is a car, truck, van or bus that uses compressed natural gas (CNG) to fuel its engine. Because is it not a liquid fuel, natural gas is compressed at 3,000 or 3,600 pounds per square inch so it can be stored in steel, aluminum, fiberglass or carbon-fiber cylinders.

Q. How do NGVs work? A. NGVs work like conventional gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles. They burn a gaseous mixture of fuel and air in an engine; however, natural gas has the advantage of already being a gas, which helps the engine run cleaner.

Q. Are NGVs safe? A. Absolutely! The cylinders that hold the compress natural gas are significantly stronger than gasoline tanks. They have withstood impact and bonfire testing and meet or exceed U.S. Department of Transportation safety standards. Even in the unlikely event of a leak, CNG will not form combustible pools on the ground as other fuel do. Because natural gas is lighter than air, it will rise and dissipate if released.

Q. Are NGVs cleaner than gasoline or diesel vehicles? A. NGVs are the cleanest of any vehicles in commercial production today. In fact, NGVs produce 5 percent to 10 percent of the emissions allowable by today’s most stringent standards. Dedicated NGVs can reduce exhaust emissions of carbon monoxide (CO) by 70 percent; nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 87 percent and carbon dioxide (CO2) by 20 percent below those of gasoline vehicles.

Q. How do you fuel NGVs? A. NGVs are refueled at either fueling locations or with home refueling appliances:

  • Fueling locations: Natural gas is compressed and dispenses into vehicles in much the same way as gasoline. These locations will either offer a ‚Äúquick-fill” or ‚Äúslow-fill” method of fueling. Quick-fill refueling takes about three to seven minutes. Slow‚Äìfill refueling is usually done overnight in about five to eight hours. NGVs are convenient for fleets since the vehicles usually return to the same location each night for refueling. For a list of NGV refueling stations in the U.S., visit: www.eere.energy.gov/afdc/fuels/natural_gas_stations.html (U.S. DOE- maintained site of U.S. stations)
  • Home refueling appliances: Provide consumers with an overnight refueling option. These appliances require 240 VAC/60HZ electric service along with the standard natural gas service available at most homes. Other slightly larger compressors which operate on 220 volts are ideal for businesses with small fleets.

Q. Is compressed natural gas cheaper? A. On average, natural gas costs approximately one-third the price of gasoline at the pump. Natural gas is sold in GGEs, or gasoline gallon equivalents. A GGE has the same energy content (124,800 Btu) as a gallon of gasoline.

Q. Is natural gas a domestically produced fuel? A. While in 2005 the United States imported more than 65 percent of the oil used, 97 percent of the natural gas in the U.S. was produced in North America (85 percent from the U.S. and 12 percent from Canada).

Q. How many NGVs are on the road today? A. There are approximately 140,000 NGVs in the U.S., but there are more than 8 million NGVs worldwide.

Q. Where can I buy an NGV? A. Currently, Honda, General Motors, Ford and Dodge have original equipment manufacturer (OEM) products available in the U.S.

Q. Are there any Federal incentives or rebates available? A. Yes, certain federal tax incentives and rebates are available through December 31, 2013

Frequently Asked Questions – About Electric Vehicles

  • 1. Q: What is an electric vehicle?
    A: Electric vehicles (EVs) are passenger vehicles designed for safe transportation at highway speeds using electricity to power the vehicle.
  • 2. Q: Are there different kinds of EVs?
    A: Yes. A Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) uses only an electric motor to power the car. BEVs are fueled exclusively from grid electricity and have no tailpipe or gas tank. Examples: Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi i. A Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) has a larger battery and can be plugged into an electrical outlet. This enables a PHEV to drive true electric miles with power from the grid for a limited distance at limited speeds. Examples: Chevy Volt, Fisker Karma.
  • 3. Q: What is the difference between an EV and a hybrid?
    A:No tailpipe! An EV runs on 100% electricity, but a hybrid uses a combination of electricity and gasoline. In a traditional hybrid, the electricity is generated either by the gasoline engine or by regenerative braking – there is no way to plug into the wall.
  • 4. Q: What is a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle?
    A:Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs) are a category of smaller, non-highway vehicles designed for use within a neighborhood setting. They have top speeds limited to 35 mph and limited safety features. The NEV is not designed for safe on-road highway driving like the EV.
  • 5. Q: Are EVs limited in size and features?
    A:Absolutely not. EVs have the standard features of any modern gasoline vehicle. Many also have the full creature comforts of luxury automobiles.
  • 6. Q: Are EVs really better for the environment?
    A: Yes. In the U.S, even when your car is 100% fueled by electricity generated by coal, EVs have a better emissions profile (in terms of both CO2 and traditional pollutants like nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and volatile organic compounds.) Not only is the overall emissions content lower, but the location and timing of the emissions is better. While your gasoline vehicle emits pollution in the middle of the city and when people are out and about, the emissions from fueling your EV typically happens at off-peak driving hours at plant locations away from the city center. Furthermore, your EV gets cleaner every day as the emissions from electricity generation portfolios improve through the addition of more renewable generation and improved technology to generate cleaner fossil-fueled power.
  • 7.Q: Are we just replacing oil dependence for battery dependence?
    A:No. EV battery manufacturing occurs throughout the world, including the U.S. itself. Additionally, the core natural resources used in the production (e.g. lithium) are dispersed throughout the world and are reusable.
  • 8. Q: Can EV batteries be recycled?
    A: EV batteries can be used afterward for various storage applications and can also be recycled.
  • 9. Q: Is it true that EVs have no fluids (like coolant, transmission, steering and brake)?
    A: Most fluids associated with engines – motor oil, transmission fluid, etc — are not needed in an EV. EVs will have brake fluid, coolant and washer fluid, though. Vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt that contain an onboard gasoline generator will still require engine lubricants.
  • 10. Q: Will it be possible to plug in a laptop or other standard device into EVs?
    A:Most EVs have a standard 12V automotive power outlet. Using it will have only a minimal effect on range.
  • 11. Q: Will EVs be available with automatic and manual transmissions?
    A:This answer surprises a lot of people. There’s no transmission in an electric car, so the experience is even smoother than an automatic.
  • 12. Q: What generates cabin heat without engine coolant?
    A:Ahhh, good question. EVs typically use an enclosed electric heater and electric heated surfaces (e.g. seats, steering wheel) to generate cabin heat. Admittedly, the heavy use of cabin heat can have an impact on the range of an EV.
  • 13. Q: Can you charge the battery even if it’s not empty?
    A:Certainly. That’s kind of like asking if you can put gas in your tank even if it’s not empty. An EV’s battery management system actively manages the delivery of charge to ensure maximum lifetime of the battery. You just plug in and let the car do the rest.
  • 14. Q: Will EVs plug into a regular household outlet?
    A:Yes. EVs will charge on a regular 110/120V, 20-Amp dedicated outlet. This is considered a ‚Äútrickle charge,” which means it will take longer to achieve a full charge.
  • 15. Q: Are electric cars the same as hydrogen cars?
    A:No, but they are similar in some ways. Hydrogen vehicles can use hydrogen in one of two ways – combustion or electricity generation. If the vehicle uses hydrogen combustion, it is more similar to a gasoline engine car than an EV. If the vehicle uses hydrogen for electricity generation, there are many similarities to EVs. In this case, the hydrogen feeds a fuel cell that produces electricity. The electricity can then fuel a battery and/or an electric drive motor.
  • 16. Q: Do I get single-rider HOV/Diamond lane access with an EV?
    A:Depends on the city. Many metropolitan areas offer additional convenience benefits to EV drivers, including preferred parking, toll road access and single-rider HOV/Diamond access. Check with your locality for programs in your area.
  • 17. Q: What impacts the range of an EV?
    A:Your actual range will vary based on the type of driving you do, your driving habits and the weather conditions. Long-distance driving at high speeds will tend to decrease range. Aggressive driving with fast starts and stops will tend to decrease range. Using the air conditioner and the heater (especially the heater) tends to decrease range. Most EVs are equipped with real-time information about the efficiency of your driving and the remaining range so you can fully understand the impact and figure out how to extend the range.
  • 18. Q: How do I charge an EV?
    A:EVs charge through two different types of charging ports. The first type of port (called ‚ÄúJ1772″), which is standard on virtually all EVs, will accept a charge from either an ordinary home outlet (110/120V) or through an industry-standard Level 2 (240V) charging dock. A standard home outlet delivers a very slow rate of charge (only about 6 miles of range per hour of charging). Charging through a Level 2 charging dock delivers power much more quickly (up to 25 miles of range per charging hour). The second type of port is a DC Fast Charging port, but be aware that a DC port may be optional on some cars and not even available on others. This port provides the ability to accept DC Fast (480V) Charging, which gives you up to 200 miles per charging hour.
  • 19. Q: How long will the battery remain charged if you leave it parked where you cannot charge it?
    A:Generally, an EV’s batteries will last for months if left unused. However, it really depends on the make and model of your EV plus a wide variety of additional factors.
  • 20. Q: Does the battery still drain when you are not moving in an EV?
    A:For EVs, a minimal amount of battery drain will occur if you are using lights, stereo and other accessories. When you are not moving, no power is used to ‚Äúidle.”
  • 21. Q: In case of a problem, can a (normal) qualified mechanic fix an EV? Is special training needed?
    A: Probably not. An EV has an electric motor rather than a gasoline engine, which will require service from qualified, trained EV technicians. Keep in mind, however, that electric motors don’t require regular maintenance (oil changes, transmission fluid changes, air filter changes, etc.) that gasoline engines do.
  • 22. Q: Will the maintenance cost for an EV over a few years be more or less than a similar gas engine vehicle?
    A:Maintenance costs are projected to be at least two thirds lower than comparably equipped gas-powered cars. How cool is that?
  • 23. Q: It’s great to cut down on vehicle emissions, but shouldn’t I worry about the power plant used to generate the electricity too?
    A:Even in its dirtiest form (coal), power generation is much cleaner and more efficient than the combined emissions generated from oil production, refining and then burning gasoline in a traditional car.
  • 24. Q: How does driving in cold weather affect the performance and battery life?
    A: Your driving habits and patterns, use of accessories (including heat and air conditioning) and outside ambient temperature all play a role in driving range.
  • 25. Q: How long does it take to charge my EV?
    A:With a Level 2 (240V) charging dock, an EV can be refueled in 2-8 hours, depending on the vehicle battery size and charging capability. If you’re using a standard 110V outlet, the refueling time could be as long as 8-16 hours. Some cars are able to use a rapid charger that charges the battery with high-power DC current (480V). These chargers can provide a 50 mile boost in 15 minutes or fully recharge an EV in about 30 minutes. But considering their cost and power requirements, these DC fast chargers aren’t appropriate for residential applications.
  • 26. Q: How much does it cost to charge my EV?
    A:The electricity cost alone can vary from $20-50 per month depending on the electric rates in your area, the miles you drive and the time you charge. In addition, if you decide to use a home charging dock, there will be an upfront expense of $1,500-2,500, depending on your specific installation and the features of your charger. eVgo subscription plans can reimburse your for the electricity used to charge your EV and cover the up-front costs of your home charger installation. (link to plans)