Natural Gas Vehicle Test Yields Interesting Results

Back in September, Salt Lake City network affiliate FOX 13 said it was going to convert one of its own fleet vehicles to compressed natural gas (CNG) and see if making the switch saved money.

The verdict?

One of the station's reporters, Ashton Goodell, spent seven months driving the converted bi-fuel CNG Nissan Xterra during the usual course of his work, heading all over the state on various news assignments. During that time, fuel costs for the Xterra decreased 16%.

FOX 13 said the conversion was about $7,000, which places the break-even point on the investment at more than 10 years, based on the current price spread between gasoline and CNG – not quite an ideal ROI.

However, the station did make some comments that suggest the conversion itself might have been sub-par. First of all, it took four days to do the conversion, which is a relatively long period. Once the CNG Xterra was on the road, it found itself in the shop for maintenance ‘once a month for the first three or four months,’ according to Ashton.

Moreover, in freezing temperatures, the vehicle would not run. ‘I had to switch it over to gasoline,’ he said. This sort of performance – or lack thereof – is not common for NGVs.

But perhaps the most suspicious aspect of the conversion is that the local company that did the work – EnergyWise – went out of business. FOX 13 tried to connect with the firm for follow-up, and ‘their offices were empty.’

Moreover, Stephen Yborra, director of market development for industry group NGVAmerica, confirms with NGT News that no Nissan model carries a certificate of compliance or listing with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

So, in effect, the FOX 13 Xterra NGV was not legal according to federal law. Any modification that changes a vehicle's combustion, fuel system or computer controls requires EPA approval.

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