The natural gas chicken and egg problem seems to be hatching a solution in Texas.
As Ford last week announced plans to offer a natural gas option for its new F-150 models, the state’s leading advocate for natural gas refueling stations put together a new tally of planned stations.
In short, the number of natural gas refueling stations in Texas will double, based on announced plans and state applications from companies.
That’s according to Lynn Lyon, director of fuel market development for Pioneer Natural Resources and leader of an industry-backed initiative to encourage more refueling stations in Texas.
While a doubling of stations doesn’t seem like much — there are 69 total natural gas stations today, less than half of which are available to the public — the change will make natural gas a more viable option for consumers looking for a cheap alternative to gasoline.
A map of Texas prepared by Lyon shows the planned and open refueling stations, illustrating how drivers will soon be able to get to most cities in the state without worrying about refueling, she said.
Pair that with the fact that consumers can get bi-fuel vehicles that use either natural gas or gasoline and the future of natural gas for vehicles seems bright, Lyon said.
“You can use natural gas as your primary fuel if you have a station close by or you can fill up at your home,” Lyon said. “But if the range of where you’re driving … doesn’t have access to (compressed natural gas), you have a backup with gasoline.”
GE is working on a home refueling device that could make for cheap overnight refueling of natural gas vehicles, though the device will likely cost $1,000.
“We still have areas where we need to increase the number of stations and that would be an area that we would focus on,” Lyon said.
Lyon’s tally includes 69 planned stations. The planned stations would add 45 publicly available stations to the existing 33 natural gas refueling stations in the state, substantially adding to consumer options.
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Analysts still doubt the potential of natural gas vehicles to capture much of the automobile market because of limited refueling stations and few vehicle options. Right now there are only two cars or light-duty trucks that consumers can buy straight from the dealer: the Honda Civic Natural Gas and the F-150.
Although car owners can get their vehicles modified to use natural gas, those cars would likley not be covered by warranties.
Natural gas has gained a lot of interest from commercial fleets and other heavy fuel users because it can cost up to $2 less for the energy equivalent in one gallon of gasoline, adding up to huge savings in the long run. Engines running on natural gas also emit fewer greenhouse gasses than other fossil fuels.