Making a “Technological Curiosity” a Reality

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

The mass adoption of vehicles fueled by natural gas, instead of petroleum, seemed very unlikely a decade ago.  Today, it’s becoming closer to reality.

In response to anticipated consumer demand, Auburn Hills-based FEV, Inc. is making a significant investment in the addition of testing capabilities for compressed natural gas (CNG) engines at its North American Technical Center.  Their facility which is located at 4554 Glenmeade Lane, employs approximately 350 people.  The new high-pressure, advanced CNG test cell is expected to be operational by October.

Building Official Jeff Spencer reviews FEV’s plans to construct a CNG test cell

Why are the automotive companies investing in CNG technology?  Well, as a fuel it offers many advantages:

  1. The use of CNG in vehicles is viewed as one of the most viable near-term solutions to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.  Natural gas is an abundant resource with a projected domestic capacity of about 100 years.
  2. From a technical standpoint, CNG is a high-octane fuel source that reduces knocking sensitivity which enhances engine efficiency.
  3. The use of CNG in vehicles has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions over gasoline by 25%, and 15% compared to diesel fuel.  Lean-burn versions have the potential to reduce CO2 emissions even more, about 30-35%.

For these reasons, the car companies – like Chrysler Group LLC – are developing both light and heavy-duty engines designed to run on CNG.   This significant investment is being pushed by both consumer demand and the automakers need to comply with future State and Federal emissions and efficiency standards.

Cars and trucks fueled by natural gas are coming, it’s just a matter of time.

Like plug-in electric vehicles, the future of CNG vehicle adoption will be dependent primarily on America’s ability to build the infrastructure needed for refueling.  Creating a network of fueling stations will be expensive and significant advanced planning is required.

Since the City of Auburn Hills is a global hub of automotive R&D, expect to see our community lead by example in promoting this innovation in the years to come.

To learn about Chrysler Group LLC’s investment in CNG, check out this blog – Chrysler Works to Find an Alternative.