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Monday, Sep 23 2013 04:29 PM

Future of natural gas vehicles on display at fair

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    By Photo contributed by Southern California Gas Co.

    Southern California Gas Co. has partnered with the American Gas Association and America's Natural Gas Alliance to produce six prototype consumer vehicles that run on both compressed natural gas or gasoline.

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BY LAURA LIERA Californian staff writer lliera@bakersfield.com

Did you know you can fuel some cars with the gas you use to barbecue?

While you shouldn't hook up your own natural gas tank to your car, BMW, Chrysler, Honda and Hyundai have collaborated to create an array of six dual-fuel natural gas vehicles that can take both gasoline and natural gas.

NGVs are fueled with compressed natural gas, which is stored in cylinders aboard a vehicle. They get about the same fuel economy as conventional gasoline vehicles.

Rob Duchow, public affairs manager with Southern California Gas Co., said these new cars are better for air quality.

"They use about 30 percent fewer greenhouse emissions so for regional air quality purposes, this is an environmental benefit," Duchow said.

A BMW X3, Chrysler 300C, Honda CR-V and Hyundai Sonata are touring the country for two years to generate interest and awareness. The cars made a two-day stop at the Kern County Fair so people could see the models. In the Chrysler 300C model, for example, the cylinder was inside a large black box in the trunk.

So a cleaner air emission car could cost you cargo space. But costwise, natural gas is about $2.30 a gallon while gasoline averages $3.80 a gallon, Duchow said.

Currently, there are two NGV stations in Bakersfield, and one each in Wasco, Delano and Tehachapi.

Cars aren't the only NGVs on the road.

All 40-foot Golden Empire Transit buses use natural gas as their fuel source.

Gina Hayden, marketing and business development manager for GET, said the company switched to CNG buses in 1996.

Several years ago, public transit agencies in California were required to reduce emission fuels. GET bus opted for natural gas.

"The air quality is important in our region plus it's much less expensive to fuel than diesel," Hayden said.

Although the buses are better for the environment, the cost of a new 40-foot CNG bus is pricey.

In 1996, the cost of a CNG bus was $326,000. Today it's $510,000.

While a car that uses compressed natural gas may cost about $3,000 more than a gasoline model,Charles Haas, senior market adviser with the NGV program, said those who drive long distances will benefit.

"People in Bakersfield drive long distances because the towns are so spread out," Haas said. "So if you're driving 12,000 to 15,000 (miles) a year with a CNG car, you will start seeing significant savings."

For more information on NGVs, visit socalgas.com, and search NGV.

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