Lowe's, UPS, Frito-Lay and Sears have all joined the natural gas revolution by equipping portions of their fleets to run on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). General Motors has taken natgas fueled automobiles to the next level, announcing yesterday it will produce its popular Chevy Impala to run on conventional gasoline or CNG for model year 2015.
This is the best chance I have seen so far for CNG to step into the limelight as a legitimate automotive fuel. A great deal of infrastructure is already in place and more natural gas pumps are being added to fueling chains across the nation.
The introduction of Chevy Impalas equipped to run on CNG adds to the list of trucking fleets already taking advantage of the cleaner burning fuel, but is among the first American cars widely available to the public that runs on the fuel. In a free market economy like the U.S., the consumer is ultimately the driver of innovation. If people are willing to buy a product, revenues encourage production.
Elements of the new Impala are taken from the Chevy Volt which allowed drivers to switch between regular gasoline and electricity. New Impalas will have room for a CNG storage tank in the trunk and drivers will have the option of switching between gasoline and CNG from inside the vehicle's cabin. That will put to rest fears of running low on CNG fuel with no place to fill up.
As large delivery fleets increasingly come to rely on compressed natural gas for fuel, consumers have the opportunity to vote with their pocketbooks. If all goes according to plan, the 2015 Chevy Impala will inspire other innovations in CNG fueled technology making the benefits of CNG more affordable to the average driver. As CNG moves from fueling industry to fueling the public, the free market will decide if it is a golden goose idea, or just another rotten egg on the trail of clean burning fuels.
Photo credit: Flamin' Mo / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND