Those who study alternative and sustainable mobility concepts will sooner or later come across the natural gas car. As alternative to the classic car with gasoline or diesel engines, the natural gas car is increasingly becoming the focus of environmentally conscious motorists. But it is often not entirely clear what the advantages of a natural gas car are and exactly how the concept works.
In order to find out whether a natural gas car meets your requirements, you should have a certain basic knowledge of how it works, its advantages and its suitability for everyday use. Only then can a well thought-out decision be made in the sense of one’s own sustainable lifestyle.
How the natural gas car works
The core of the natural gas car is a conventional combustion engine. However, instead of the usual mixture of gasoline and air, a gas-air mixture burned and used to power the engine. The basic technology remains the same, only the fuel changes. To extract natural gas, wells must be drilled in so-called natural gas fields, similar to those used for crude oil. Both monovalent and bivalent natural gas cars are commercially available:
Monovalent vehicles are powered entirely by natural gas and have only a small tank of gasoline, which is sufficient for the journey to the nearest natural gas filling station in case of an emergency. Bivalent vehicles are hybrids that have an additional gasoline tank in addition to the natural gas tank. This increases the range of the car, but the advantages of the natural gas car diminish with every kilometer of gasoline driven.
Advantages of the natural gas car
Natural gas cars combine various advantages that make them an exciting alternative for some drivers:
Compared to super gasoline, up to 35% less CO2 emissions are possible. Those who rely on 100% bio-gas can even drive completely carbon dioxide-free.
Natural gas is subsidized and therefore cheaper per liter than gasoline. Subsidies in germany run until 2026.
Due to the comparatively high energy content, less fuel is needed for the same performance – the price per kilometer is lower. With 10 euros, you can drive 123 kilometers on average with a gasoline engine. For the same money, a comparable natural gas car can travel more than 220 kilometers.
Natural gas vehicles often qualify for lower insurance and tax rates. Lower pollutant emissions make it possible to receive environmental bonuses.
Natural gas cars are quieter than gasoline and diesel cars.
On the road with natural gas cars
If you’re driving a natural gas car, even long distances are no problem: modern vehicles can travel up to 1,000 kilometers on a single tank of gas. Only then do you have to refuel. In germany there are 900 natural gas filling stations, over 3000 throughout europe. If you want to be on the safe side, you can download the appropriate apps and see where the next natural gas filling station is on your planned route. 2000 filling stations to be found across germany by 2025.
The important thing is: natural gas should not be confused with autogas. While autogas is sold in liquid form and billed by the liter, natural gas actually enters the tank in gaseous form and is counted by the kilo. Natural gas cars cannot be used with autogas and vice versa. Natural gas stations are often labeled CNG (compressed natural gas), while LPG (liquified petroleum gas) stations can be identified by the abbreviation.
Natural gas cars: technology with a future?
With the focus on biogas, natural gas cars are becoming an attractive alternative in terms of their environmental footprint. The major savings in CO2 emissions speak in favor of the alternative drive concept. In germany so far about 100.000 natural gas vehicles registered. The more environmentally friendly technology has not yet become widely accepted.
One problem regarding the sustainability of the concept and its suitability for the mass market is the basic resource: natural gas is like crude oil a fossil and therefore limited resource. The natural gas reserves of the earth will last for about 60 years. The alternative here is biogas, which is produced through the fermentation of biomass and is compatible with any natural gas car.
Is a natural gas car worth it for me??
If you’re thinking about buying a natural gas car and don’t want to neglect your personal profitability in addition to the environmental aspect, you should plan carefully. Although natural gas costs less than gasoline or diesel, the purchase price of a natural gas car is higher. 4000 euro more than a comparable petrol car costs a natural gas car. Only those who use their cars for a long time and drive a lot can ultimately offset the extra cost through savings at the gas station.
As a guide, the ADAC has calculated the following values: from a mileage of 15.000 kilometers per year does the natural gas car pay for itself after five years?. If you drive less, it takes longer to recoup the costs and, from a purely financial point of view, you are better off with a gasoline-powered car for a shorter period of use. However, you help the environment with every single kilometer you drive with a natural gas car instead of a conventional vehicle.