More power for natural gas cars
The EU-funded INGAS project has improved the designs for engines and vehicles that run on natural gas – making them more attractive to drive while benefiting the environment.
More natural gas-fuelled vehicles on European roads would help ensure the EU’s energy security, reduce our dependency on foreign oil, and be better for the environment. For drivers, the long-term cost of operating a natural gas vehicle is also lower, compared to ones running on conventional fuels.
Then why are more people not driving them today? In part, engine performance has not been always satisfactory enough to make them an attractive buy for most drivers.
“Cars and trucks fuelled by compressed natural gas have been available for more than a decade, yet today’s market share of these vehicles is still relatively small,” explains Massimo Ferrera of Italy’s Centro Ricerche Fiat (CRF). “Concerns about engine power and ability to accelerate have limited the uptake of these vehicles among the general public and freight vehicle fleet operators.”
Ferrera is coordinator of the EU-funded INGAS project, which worked to reduce the environmental impact of natural gas-powered vehicles, while maintaining a high level of engine performance.
The project’s main achievement was to design several custom engines that improve their performance, as well as incorporating specific after-treatment systems and several important components, such as lighter tanks.
“At the same time, innovative lightweight storage systems mean we can further increase vehicle range without affecting trunk space,” Ferrera says.
“With these technologies, natural gas vehicles can achieve the same performance, they are as much fun to drive, as conventional diesel and petrol vehicles,” Ferrera says.
On the road with natural gas
The new INGAS system could also have a big impact on preserving the environment and meeting Europe’s goals on climate change.
With these results, project partners have demonstrated that the automotive industry can move towards EU targets for road transport-related CO2 reduction, with benefits for human health and the environment.
“There are currently about one million natural gas vehicles operating on European roads but that number could grow in the short-to-medium term if we can continue to expand natural gas refuelling infrastructure,” says Ferrera.
The INGAS team included leading researchers from Europe’s automotive industry, insuring the rapid integration of the resulting technologies in production vehicles. The project was completed in 2012.