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Chrysler pushes natural gas autos

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Chrysler pushes natural gas autos

Compressed fuel an alternative until electric cars arrive

Alisa Priddle / The Detroit News

Compressed natural gas could be a near-term solution until Chrysler Group LLC gets electric vehicles on the market in 2012.

Through partner Fiat SpA, Chrysler has access to a full line of engines that can run on CNG, said Paolo Ferrero, a former Fiat executive now in charge of Chrysler Powertrain.

Ferrero and CEO Sergio Marchionne have started promoting natural gas Chrysler vehicles in the U.S. and calling for government support in the form of tax incentives credits for biofuels and subsidies for infrastructure.

Marchionne first raised the subject this month at a meeting of business and political leaders on Mackinac Island.

"It is the most effective solution, in terms of costs and timing, to lessen this country's reliance on oil," he said.

"Today, natural gas is a rational alternative to gasoline that can provide a near-term environmental solution on the road to vehicle electrification," Marchionne said, noting the fuel has 25 percent fewer emissions and is 25 percent cheaper than gasoline.

Fiat introduced its "Natural Power" line a decade ago in Europe. It also is popular in South America. Fiat has a full range of engines that run on CNG from less than 1 liter in size to 7.8 liters, powering a variety of vehicles.

Andrea Gerini, an advanced powertrain engineer with Fiat in Turin, Italy, brought a natural gas Fiat Panda, a tiny four-door car roughly the size of the Fiat 500, to a recent conference in Novi, for test drives.

Last year, of the 130,000 natural gas-powered vehicles that Fiat sold in Europe, about 60,000 were Pandas, he said.

"In Italy, it was important to have government help to develop infrastructure and offer incentives for gas stations and for consumers," Gerini said.

Italy has about 700 biofuel stations. In Italy, a vehicle that runs on biofuel costs about 25 percent more -- roughly the same premium as buying a car with a diesel engine.

The savings in fuel costs amount to about 60 percent for natural gas, compared with gasoline. And CNG is about 40 percent less than diesel fuel. As a result, a third of all Panda buyers opt for the natural gas version in Europe.

These vehicles are ready to bring to market here, Ferrero said.

Natural gas is plentiful, including reserves in Michigan, and pipelines exist, said Marchionne. Fueling stations are needed, but the infrastructure would be easy to build in the U.S., he said.

"It is just a question of working with governments and others to implement," Ferrero said.

At the recent U.S. Conference of Mayors, municipal leaders called for government support of natural gas to reduce the carbon footprint in American cities where many have converted buses or fleets to run on natural gas.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100630/AUTO01/6300373/1148/auto01/Chrysler-pushes-natural-gas-autos#ixzz0sMh0c8fg

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CHRYSLER PUSHES CNG IN LIEU OF EVS

By Drew Johnson

With its electric vehicle cupboard essentially bare, Chrysler is pushing compressed natural gas-powered vehicles as a short-term solution until its first crop of EVs hit the market sometime in 2012.

“It is the most effective solution, in terms of costs and timing, to lessen this country’s reliance on oil,” Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said earlier this month about CNG technology.

“Today, natural gas is a rational alternative to gasoline that can provide a near-term environmental solution on the road to vehicle electrification,” he added.

Fiat – which now has a 20 percent stake in Chrysler – has been using CNG technology in Europe for the last 10 years. Dubbed “Natural Power”, Fiat offers the technology on a number of vehicles, with engines ranging in size from 1L to 7.8L. Fiat says CNG returns 25 percent better fuel economy while costing 25 percent less than gasoline.

CNG stations are commonplace in Fiat’s home market of Italy, but are relatively scarce in the U.S. Fiat is pushing for government support for a CNG fueling infrastructure in the United States, but has yet to gain widespread support. However, with most government funding going towards electric vehicle technology, it remains to be seen if there will be enough left over to support CNG.

link:

http://www.leftlanenews.com/chrysler-pushes-cng-in-lieu-of-evs.html

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