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Alternative fuels: CNG is emerging as a serious contender

Sales of compressed natural gas (CNG) cars have increased significantly over the last two years in Germany, and indeed in Europe as a whole.

As CNG vehicles can be refueled at home, they offer added practicality, and this, added to the growing backlash against biofuels, gives CNG the potential to become a significant player in the alternative fuels market over the next few years. All signs point to the fact that CNG-fueled cars are growing in popularity across Europe.

In Germany, according to automotive news provider Automobilwoche, natural gas car sales were up 58% in August 2007 compared to August 2006. This comes on the back of previous strong growth, which saw last year’s sales up 40% compared to those in 2005. Germany is not the only country in Europe that recently has reported growing interest in CNG. In the Czech Republic, RWE Transgas has stated that it believes that the number of CNG-powered vehicles could increase 20-fold over the next five years.

Furthermore, the UK’s Natural Gas Vehicles Association has predicated that the number of CNG-powered vehicles will increase from the current few hundred to 100,000 by 2010. Such growth demonstrates that despite the popularity of biofuels and innovations in other alternatives, such as fuel cell and electricity-powered vehicles, CNG has the potential to be a significant player in the market for alternative fuels. One benefit of CNG is that refueling can take place at home.

This has enabled the fuel to avoid the trap into which many other alternative fuels, such as hydrogen fuel cells, have fallen; one reason why consumers do not purchase hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is that there is no refueling network, and fuel retailers generally do not sell hydrogen because there is no demand for the product. Another area where CNG is likely to benefit is the growing backlash against biofuels from motorists that are interested in buying alternative fuels.

Criticism of biofuels has increased significantly over the last few months, with a number of studies warning against the ecological and humanitarian dangers linked to the mass production of the alternative fuel. In essence, although CNG historically has remained largely unknown as an alternative fuel, the number of natural gas vehicles has been increasing rapidly in a number of European countries. The continuing criticism of the production of biofuel feedstocks, and the practicality of home refueling, are likely to make CNG a solid contender as an alternative fuel over the coming years. (petrolplaza)