Natural gas could be an important stepping stone in America’s quest to develop domestic energy. The problem right now is that natural gas filling stations are expensive and the home models can take 12 hours to fill your car. But major auto parts maker Eaton could bring a much cheaper, and faster filling unit to consumers homes in the next few years.
Affordable Domestic Fuel Filling Station For Your Home
Oil companies claim there is enough natural gas in shale formations beneath America to provide 100 years of “clean” energy. How true this is, I don’t know, though natural gas does have the potential to wean America off of foreign fuel imports. The problem is that so far there is just one CNG car on the market, the Honda Civic GX, and other automakers have been slow to commit new CNG vehicles outside of commercial and fleet sales. And while natural gas feeds heat into many American homes, those pipes run are an extremely low pressure, which means the $4,500 Phill filling stations Honda was pushing can take 12 hours or more to fill up the CNG tanks.
Eaton is approaching both the time, and cost issue with an innovative solution using a liquid piston to compress the low-pressure natural gas found in many homes. What is only described as “innovative heat exchanger technology” will supposedly improve efficiency and cut costs by as much as 90% over current filling stations. The liquid piston might also turn those 12-hour filling times into something much quicker. Eaton hopes to bring such a filling station to market around 2015 with a target price of $500, which is less than the floormats in some new cars.
…Coming Soon Enough?
A low-cost home fueling station certainly would be a big boon for those wanting to pursue an alternative to petroleum, and by 2015 there should be at least a few more options in terms of CNG vehicles. Yet on the same token, who knows where world energy prices will be by 2015. Oil prices could skyrocket, or they could plummet, major breakthroughs in battery technology could make EV’s more practical and affordable, and hydrogen fuel cells might even make a comeback. It’s too far out to make that call, and for that reason Eaton is also developing everything from hydraulic-hybrids to home charging stations for electric cars. That’s the right call if you ask me.
Who knows what might happen in the next three years? 2015 is a long ways away, though anything that makes alternative fuels more affordable and accessible is OK by me. Hopefully this Eaton project pans out, and by then America will be well on its way to an affordable and sustainable future in alternative fuels.
Source: Green Car Congress