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  1. Alternative fuels have been an important focus at GM over the past 25 years. The 2016 Chevrolet Impala Bi-Fuel is the latest model to offer the ability to seamlessly run on compressed natural gas (CNG) or gasoline. Natural gas is the cleanest-burning of all fossil fuels and emits fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventionally powered vehicles. Plus, natural gas is an abundant resource in the U.S. and costs significantly less per gallon equivalent than gasoline.

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  1. Gas or CNG? Dual fuel capability solves the range anxiety that occurs with vehicles running solely on an alternative fuel. Impala drivers can choose to run on CNG or gasoline with a dashboard switch. The system seamlessly switches to gasoline once CNG is depleted. Fuel gauges are provided for both fuels.

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  1. Connectivity is well looked-after in the Impala Bi-Fuel, which offers OnStar with 4G LTE connectivity and Wi-Fi hotspot plus wireless smartphone charging. Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system and Apple CarPlay integrate smartphone functions onto an eight-inch color touchscreen that allows calling up features like music and navigation apps.

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  1. Fueling convenience is provided with both the gasoline fuel inlet and CNG pressure fitting located behind a common fuel filler door. Fueling with natural gas at a CNG pump takes about the same amount of time as refueling with gasoline.

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  1. Bi-fuel operation requires the Impala’s 3.6-liter dual-fuel V-6 to be equipped with hardened valves and valve seats to enhance durability when running on CNG. Special regulators, filters, and high pressure fuel lines are also used. Driving range is an EPA estimated 119 miles on CNG and 368 miles on gasoline.

fueling-unleadedWell, this should be no surprise. Reuters reports what we’ve suspected all along because there’s a long history of this happening: Low gasoline prices are negatively impacting the sale of alternative fuel vehicles including those running on natural gas and electricity.

Not surprisingly, with lower gasoline prices comes a decided uptick in purchases of larger and lower efficiency vehicles, especially SUVs. Beyond personal transportation, the commercial sector is also being hit hard because the cost differential involved in buying large natural gas trucks presently fails to pencil out well compared to conventionally powered models.

Is this a trend? Only short term, really. Cars of Change and Green Car Journal editors have noted such occurrences over the past two decades and the trend has always ebbed and flowed with varying fuel prices, incentives, and other factors. While the long-term prospects for battery electric vehicles hinge on lower cost batteries in the future, hybrids and high efficiency conventional vehicles are here to stay.

2015-green-car-of-the-year-logoOver the 10 year history of Green Car Journal’s Green Car of the Year award program, there has never been a battery electric car that has been compelling enough to be recognized as the best-of-the-best in an ever-expanding field of ‘green’ cars. That has changed with the groundbreaking BMW i3, Green Car Journal’s 2015 Green Car of the Year®.

The BMW i3 came out on top of a field of finalists that included the Audi A3 TDI, Chevrolet Impala Bi-Fuel, Honda Fit, and VW Golf. The array of technologies and fuels represented included high efficiency gasoline, electric drive, clean diesel, and natural gas.

bmw-13-action-rightBMW’s i3 stands out as one of the most innovative vehicles ever to be introduced by any major automaker. It breaks the mold – literally – with a strong and lightweight body using materials and technology at home on the race track, and now used for the first time to construct a mainstream production car. It is a milestone, forward-thinking approach.

Meeting both near-term and far-reaching goals is no easy thing. The challenge is to design and build cars that offer meaningful environmental achievement while delivering the traditional touchstones desired by new car buyers, among them comfort, safety, convenience, connectivity, performance, and value. Also important in the world of advanced vehicles like battery electric cars is a significant commitment to the manufacturing and sale of these vehicles that goes beyond a few thousand units sold in select geographical areas. BMW’s commitment with the i3 is focused not only nationally in the U.S., but globally as well.

bmw-i3-cutawayOffering a lightweight carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) body on an aluminum space frame, BMW’s innovative i3 brings environment-conscious drivers all-electric drive with an optional internal combustion range extender. The most unique aspect of the i3 is the car’s body structure, which incorporates the first-ever use of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) to form the body and passenger cabin of a mass-production vehicle. CFRP is as strong as steel and 50 percent lighter. It is also 30 percent lighter than aluminum.

This BMW’s drive module includes an electric drivetrain, 5-link rear suspension, and an aluminum structure. Its lithium-ion battery pack is mounted mid-ship beneath the floor. Strategic placement of the 450 pound battery pack and drive components provides a very balanced 50-50 weight distribution to enhance handling and performance.

bmw-i3-dashAcceleration is crisp, with a 0-60 elapsed time of 7.2 seconds provided by an electric motor producing 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft torque. With a curb weight of just 2,700 pounds, the i3 has is sprightly even at highway speeds. Strong regenerative braking characteristics often allow the i3 to be driven with just the accelerator pedal in city driving. When a driver lets off the accelerator, regen slows the car quickly and allows it to come to a complete stop without touching the brake pedal.

Charging at home with an available 220 volt charger delivers a full charge in about three hours. Where available, public DC fast charging can bring an i3 to 80 percent state-of-charge in 20 minutes and a full charge in 30 minutes. The i3 BEV features an 81 mile EPA estimated range on batteries. The i3 REx, equipped with an internal combustion range extender that creates on-board electricity as needed to help keep batteries charged, features a 72 mile battery driving range and 150 miles total with the range extender.

bmw-i3-chargingEfficiency is a given. EPA rates the i3’s city fuel economy at 137 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) and 111 MPGe on the highway, with a combined 124 MPGe. For the REx-equipped model, EPA rates mileage at 117 MPGe combined.

The 2015 Green Car of the Year® is selected by a majority vote of an award jury comprised of Green Car Journal staff and invited jurors, including TV personality and car aficionado Jay Leno plus leaders of the nation’s most high-profile environmental and efficiency organizations. These jurors include Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of Ocean Futures Society; Matt Petersen, board member of Global Green USA; Mindy Lubber, President of CERES; Kateri Callahan, President of the Alliance to Save Energy; and Dr. Alan Lloyd, President emeritus of the International Council on Clean Transportation.

bmw-i3-side-doorsThe diversity of new car models at showrooms today reflects an evolving and sophisticated market in which a growing number of new car buyers have decided that environmental performance must meet their needs and expectations, on their terms. As it happens, 2015 Green Car of the Year jurors have clearly decided that this year, the electric BMW i3 does it best.

 

It is an exciting time to be involved with the auto industry, or to be in the market for a new car. The auto industry has responded splendidly to the challenge of new emission, fuel economy, and safety standards. The public is offered a greater than ever selection of vehicles with different powertrains, lightweight materials, hybrids, and electric drive vehicles across many platforms. We see increasing numbers of clean diesel vehicles and natural gas is making a resurgence, especially in the heavy-duty sector.

alan-lloydThe positive response by the auto industry to the ever-tightening pollutant emission and fuel economy standards includes tactics such as the use of aluminum in the Ford F-150 and the increased use of carbon fiber by BMW, among many innovations introduced across many models and drivetrains. These evolutionary changes are a major tribute to the automobile engineers who are wringing out the most they can in efficiency and reduced emissions from gasoline and diesel engines. I view this evolutionary change as necessary, but not sufficient to meet our greenhouse gas goals by 2050.

New car ownership is currently down in Europe and is leveling off in the U.S. For global automotive manufacturers, however, this trend is offset by the dramatic growth in places like China and India. The potential for dramatic growth in the developing world is clearly evident: In the U.S., there are about 500 cars per thousand people, compared to about 60 and 20 in China and India, respectively.

How can these trends be reconciled with the environmental and health concerns due to climate change and adverse air quality in the developing world? The evidence for climate change accumulates by the day. Hazardous air quality in many major cities in China has drawn global attention, providing a visual reminder of how far the developed world has come and how much environmental protection needs to be accelerated in the developing world. Damaging air pollution is increasingly seen as a regional and even worldwide challenge. Dramatic economic growth in many developing countries is generating pollution that knows no boundaries. Air pollution from China, for example, fumigates Korea and Japan and is even transported across the Pacific to impact air quality in California and other Western states.

It will take a revolutionary change to provide personal mobility without unacceptable energy and environmental consequences. As a recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) document states, it is likely that a major shift to electric drive vehicles would be required in the next 20 to 30 years. Electric drive vehicles, coupled with renewable energy, can achieve essentially zero carbon and conventional pollutant emissions. The NAS report also predicted that the costs of both battery and fuel-cell electric vehicles would be less than advanced conventional vehicles in the 2035-2040 timeframe.

This transition will not occur overnight and we will be driving advanced conventional vehicles for many years to come. In a study for the International Council on Clean Transportation, Dr. David Greene calculated that the transition could take 10 to 15 years, requiring sustained investment in infrastructure and incentives in order to achieve sustained penetration. While this investment is not inexpensive, it is projected that the benefits of this investment will be 10 times greater than the costs.

So where do we stand today on electric vehicles? We are seeing an unprecedented number of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric vehicles across many drivetrains and models. There were about 96,000 plug-in electric vehicles sold or leased in the U.S. last year and more than 10 new PEV models are expected this year. While the sales fall short of some optimistic projections, it is an encouraging start after many years of more hope than delivery. The FC EV is expected to see significant growth after the initial limited introduction of fuel cells in the 2015-2017 timeframe by five major automobile companies.

It will take many years of sustained increasing penetration into new car sales to make this revolution a success. It is indeed a marathon and not a sprint. The challenge is how to ensure sustained sales of electric drive vehicles in the face of the many attributes of advanced technology conventional vehicles.  Electric drive vehicle drivetrains have an affinity with the increasing amount of electronics on board the vehicle, which might ultimately yield very interesting, capable, and competitive vehicles.

I have little doubt that if we are serious about our energy, environmental, and greenhouse gas goals the revolution in technology will occur. All the major automobile companies seem to recognize this in their technology roadmap, which includes advanced conventional vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles, battery and fuel cell electric vehicles.

In conclusion, the next 20 years promise to be equally as challenging and exciting as the last 20 years. I have little doubt that the automobile engineers are up to the task ahead, but whether we have the political fortitude to stay the course to achieve the necessary air pollution and GHG reductions is far less certain.

Dr. Alan Lloyd is President Emeritus of the nonprofit International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). He formerly served as Secretary of CalEPA and Chairman of the California Air Resources Board.

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The San Antonio Auto & Truck Show has a big interest in trucks. After all, we’re talking Texas. Now ‘green’ is gaining even more emphasis at the show with Green Car Journal’s inaugural Green Truck of the Year™ award.

Green Car Journal has presented its coveted Green Car of the Year® award in Los Angeles for the past decade, recognizing the best and the brightest vehicles with improved environmental performance. The Green Truck of the Year™ award program in San Antonio is a natural complement. Trucks are a high-profile part of the San Antonio Auto & Truck Show and Texas is the largest truck market in the nation, making this an ideal venue for this new high-profile award.

In selecting the program’s five finalists, Green Car Journal editors consider all potential truck models in the U.S. market, weighing environmental attributes alongside traditional touchstones that define what makes a great pickup, such as functionality, versatility, safety, value, and style. The 2015 Green Truck of the Year™ winner is selected from these five finalists by a Green Truck of the Year™ jury comprised of automotive experts and Green Car Journal staff.

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Trucks are no strangers to Green Car Journal. The magazine’s editors and writers have deep backgrounds with trucks, having served on staff at enthusiast truck publications during their careers. They have owned sport trucks, work trucks, custom trucks, and off-road trucks so they know what's important to truck buyers, just as they know the importance of 'green' features in the trucks of our future.

The 46th annual San Antonio Auto & Truck Show will take place on November 6-9, 2014 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas, with the 2015 Green Truck of the Year™ announced during the show's media day on November 6. Presented by the San Antonio Automobile Dealers Association, the show highlights the auto industry’s newest innovations and provides a ‘one-stop shop’ for evaluating the latest cars, trucks, and technologies. It is recognized as South Texas’ premier automotive event.

2015 bi-fuel CNG Chevrolet ImpalaWhile drivers in many other countries can choose from dozens of passenger car models operating on compressed natural gas (CNG), that’s not the case here. We have one: Honda’s Civic Natural Gas.

That changes with the coming 2015 Chevrolet Impala Bi-Fuel Sedan. Like the Civic, the alternative fuel Impala comes straight from the manufacturer – in this case Chevy – without the extra step of fuel conversion by an outside vehicle modifier. Current natural gas pickups and vans from Chevy, Ford, GMC, and Ram are sent to aftermarket suppliers for installation of natural gas components.

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The new bi-fuel Impala will be able to run on either gasoline or CNG, addressing the range anxiety issue associated with dedicated vehicles that run exclusively on an alternative fuel. It also allows owners to use the least expensive fuel at the time of fill-up. The system seamlessly switches from natural gas to gasoline if the CNG tank is depleted. Drivers can also choose to run on their fuel of choice with a dashboard switch. Total range with both fuels is an expected 500 miles.

Making a bi-fuel Impala requires changes to the 3.8 liter V-6 engine so it can burn either fuel, plus the addition of regulators, filters, high pressure gaseous fuel lines, and a CNG fill receptacle. A large CNG tank is added in the trunk and does reduce cargo capacity. The system is factory-engineered and fully warranted.

2015 bi-fuel CNG Chevrolet Impala

Ford F-150 to Offer Ability to Run on Compressed Natural GasFord’s 3.7-liter V-6 equipped-150 pickup is now available with a factory-installed, gaseous-fuel prep package, making Ford the only manufacturer offering a CNG/LPG-capable half-ton pickup. The $315 engine prep package includes hardened valves, valve seats, pistons, and rings so it can operate on either natural gas or gasoline through separate fuel systems.

The light-duty Ford CNG pickup is now being offered as a ship-thru option by Michigan-based Venchurs Vehicle Systems, the first of several Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifiers (QVMs) that will be marketing the 2014 F-150 as a natural gas vehicle. QVMs supply the fuel tanks, fuel lines, and unique fuel injectors. Ford has a rigorous QVM qualification program to help modifiers achieve greater levels of customer satisfaction and product acceptance through the manufacture of high-quality alternative fuel vehicles. Conversions can be financed through Ford Credit.

Ford F-150 to Offer Ability to Run on Compressed Natural Gas

According to Ford, upfitting to gaseous fuel operation costs approximately $7,500 to $9,500. Ford maintains the engine and powertrain limited warranty (five years or 60,000 miles) while the modifier is responsible for the system component warranty.

Conversions can provide stability against fluctuating fuel prices as well as lower operating costs. CNG sells for an average of $2.11 per gallon of gasoline equivalent, and as low as $1 in some parts of the country. The F-150 CNG/LPG can travel up to 750+ miles on one tank of gas.

Ford F-150 to Offer Ability to Run on Compressed Natural Gas

Since reintroducing the option in 2009, Ford has established itself as the leader in CNG/LPG engine sales. It is on track to sell over 15,000 CNG/LPG-prepped vehicles this year, an increase of over 25 percent from 2012.

With the F-150, Ford will have eight vehicles running on CNG/LPG. These range from Transit and E-Series vans, wagons, cutaways, and chassis cabs to F-Series Super Duty pickups and chassis cabs.

 

Clean Energy Fuels has been hard at work building out a network of natural gas fueling stations along major trucking corridors across the country. The goal is to enable long-haul 18-wheelers to travel coast-to-coast, border-to-border on liquefied natural gas (LNG), a clean-burning and mostly domestic alternative fuel. To supply LNG for these trucks, Clean Energy has completed its initial phase with 70 LNG stations in operation and is moving ahead with another 80 planned for 2013. Many will be co-located at Pilot-Flying J Travel Centers. Pilot-Flying J operates the greatest number of truck stops in the U.S.

Why is this nationwide fueling network important? Truckers could save as much as 25 percent on their fuel bills while cutting CO2 emissions and helping meet the national goal of energy independence. These are three major transportation goals being addressed with a single strategy.

Joining in this effort is GE Oil & Gas, which is supplying its MicroLNG plants to produce LNG from pipeline natural gas. These plug-and-play modular plants can rapidly liquefy natural gas, producing between 50,000 to 250,000 tons-per-year while using a minimum of real estate. This compares to half a million tons, or more, of LNG annually produced by large LNG production plants, usually for international export.

Initially, Clean Energy is purchasing two GE MicroLNG plants that can produce up to 250,000 gallons-per-day, an amount sufficient to fuel about 28,000 heavy-duty trucks. This could displace more than 139,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year, equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 7,000 trucks running on diesel fuel.

The two GE MicroLNG plants are planned to begin operation in 2015 at locations yet to be determined. As more fleets adopt LNG and demand for this natural gas fuel increases, plants could be expanded to produce up to a million gallons-per-day. Clean Energy plans to use a standardized design for these MicroLNG plants to facilitate building additional plants in the future.

Beyond applications as part of this nationwide fueling vision, MicroLNG plants can also provide small-scale LNG production for remote industrial and residential use. A MicroLNG plant can liquefy natural gas at any point along a gas distribution network. GE’s Micro LNG plants are also simple to install, operate, and maintain, and can be customized to meet a wide range of needs and site requirements.

Engine and truck manufacturers Cummins-Westport, Kenworth, Peterbilt, Navistar, Freightliner, and Caterpillar are all expected to have engines and Class-8 trucks available to use LNG. In 2013, four of the nation’s major truck manufacturers will offer the Cummins Westport 12-liter ISX12 G LNG engine as an option in long-haul Class 8 trucks.

Compared to compressed natural gas used in light-duty vehicles, LNG provides significantly longer driving range without compromising payload, making use of this fuel a very viable option.

Natural gas vehicles are popular in Europe with nearly 100,000 on German roads. Italy has about 800,000 due to a favorable tax advantage plus rebates on new car purchases, exemptions from certain traffic rules, and an extensive, subsidized natural gas station network. Most European automakers offer at least one compressed natural gas (CNG) model. Volkswagen offers the Caddy 2.0-liter EcoFuel, extended Caddy Maxi 2.0-liter EcoFuel, Touran 1.4-liter TSI EcoFuel, Passat and Passat Estate 1.4-liter TSI EcoFuel, and now the eco up! Next year, these will be joined by an EcoFuel version of the VW Golf.

The eco up! features Volkswagen’s newly developed three-cylinder, 1.0-liter gasoline engine. Here, the lightweight, aluminum 12-valve engine was designed to operate on natural gas, but can run on unleaded premium gasoline as well. Driving on natural gas, it produces 67 horsepower and 66 lb-ft torque, a combination that motivates this four-place urban car from zero to 60 mph in about 16 seconds with a 102 mph top speed.

Natural gas is stored in two subfloor tanks near the rear axle. This location means they don’t reduce useable space, although they do displace the normal spare tire recess. The eco up! has a total range of 373 miles – 236 miles on natural gas and another 137 miles on the reserve gasoline tank.

According to Volkswagen, the new eco up! is currently the world’s most fuel-efficient natural gas passenger car with consumption of just 2.9 kg of natural gas per 100 kilometers. This equates to roughly 56 U.S. mpg. Helping achieve this fuel efficiency are low vehicle weight, good aerodynamics, low rolling resistance tires, BlueMotion Technologies Stop/Start system, and regenerative braking.

A major benefit for natural gas cars like the eco up! is that they are not limited to just natural gas, but can also operate on alternative fuels such as renewable biomethane. When produced from straw, animal and biological wastes, or plant byproducts, biomethane does not compete with food crops, which is currently the case with biodiesel and ethanol. Biomethane is also CO2-neutral since the car only emits as much CO2 during combustion as is absorbed by feedstock plants while growing. Today, biomethane is blended with traditional natural gas at a quarter of Germany’s natural gas stations and is available as pure biomethane at about 100 stations.

Natural gas vehicles can additionally run on e-gas, also known as ‘power-to-gas.’ Electricity produced by wind or solar power is used to produce hydrogen by electrolysis, and in a second step the hydrogen is converted to methane to be used in vehicles. As fuel cell vehicles become economically practical, the hydrogen can be used directly in vehicles. Importantly, e-gas represents a way to store overcapacities from renewable sources in the form of methane or hydrogen for use in vehicles or electrical generation plants when wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining.

We’ve been intrigued by Honda’s Civic natural gas program since this vehicle began serial production at the automaker’s Ohio assembly plant in 1998.

It is a pretty amazing car, built alongside its conventionally powered cousins on the same line, but with the unique components that enable it to operate on clean compressed natural gas (CNG) – a high-compression engine with hardened valves and other natural gas- specific hardware, special lines and fittings, a pressure vessel instead of a gas tank, and so on. It may be equipped with different components, but in the end the natural gas variant drives like the gasoline Civics that leave the plant.

This is a good thing since ‘transparency’ is important. While most drivers may want environmentally-conscious vehicles, they tend to also want ones that are familiar in most ways. The 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas  – Green Car Journal’s 2012 Green Car of the Year –has been showing us how well Honda has accomplished this job since it began operating as part of our long-term test fleet in 2012.

The natural gas variant’s 1.8-liter engine delivers 110 horsepower – 30 less horsepower than the gasoline version – although the difference isn’t really noticeable during the daily drive. The thousands of miles we’ve now spent behind the wheel bear this out.

The CNG version Civic is not only mainstream-stylish and comfortable, it’s also fuel efficient. We averaged better than 36 highway mpg on a recent tank with another tank in city driving averaging 26 mpg. This was done in ECON mode, with Honda’s ECO Assist system engaged to modify engine operation and other power-using systems to increase driving efficiency. Our combined mpg readings have been averaging 30.8 mpg combined fuel economy, right where it should be considering EPA’s 31 mpg combined estimate.

We've found that engaging the ECON function helps mpg but does diminish throttle response, so entering interstates may be best done with ECON off. With ECON on or off, though, the Civic Natural Gas provides the kind of solid driving experience we can appreciate.

Honda mounts the Civic’s 3600 psi tank between the rear wheels, a position that also places it partially in the rear of the trunk behind a finished panel, resulting in a substantially smaller trunk volume than conventional Civics. The tank holds the equivalent of about eight gallons of gasoline, depending on ambient temperatures during refueling since temperature can influence fill volume. Our range at fill-ups typically shows about 220 to 240 miles on the car’s distance-to-empty gauge.

The Civic Natural Gas test car we’re driving offers an array of welcome features including Honda’s navigation system, which bumps the price up $1,500 from this model’s base MSRP of $26,155 to $27,655.

Eaton Corporation, a company involved in electric vehicle charging, is now on a mission to develop a next-generation home refueling station for natural gas vehicles. The company is aiming to solve one of the vexing challenges for commercializing natural gas passenger vehicles for general consumers: affordable at-home natural gas refueling.

Home refueling allows natural gas vehicle owners to fuel up at home with a wall-mounted vehicle refueling appliance, similar to charging an electric vehicle. The appliance uses the natural gas source available at most homes and many businesses, compressing the gas to the 3600 psi required by a natural gas vehicle.

In operation, the fueling appliance’s fill line is connected to the vehicle’s CNG fueling inlet with a compression fitting, and then the tank is slow-filled overnight. In the morning you’re ready to go with a full tank of fuel that’s considerably cheaper, and cleaner, than gasoline.

The most high-profile example for home refueling has been the CNG appliance manufactured by FuelMaker, once marketed by Honda as ‘Phill,’ an option to accompany its natural gas Civic model. This vehicle refueling appliance is now manufactured by BRC FuelMaker and marketed in the U.S. through IMPCO Technologies. While convenient and easy to use, the challenge for consumers has been one of cost – simply, refueling appliances are not inexpensive. The natural gas industry recognizes this and is focused on developing competitive refueling appliances that will overcome the cost issue.

Enter Eaton with a development project partly funded with $3.4 million from the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E). The goal: No less than developing a production prototype home vehicle refueling station that will retail for about one tenth of the cost of currently available systems, which currently come in at about $5,000 to $10,000. Eaton is targeting a production price of $500 with a prototype available by the end of 2015.

 

VW is adding a natural gas version of its 2013 Golf to its offerings in Europe. The bi-fuel EcoFuel Golf has two CNG cylinders mounted beneath the floor providing a range of about 260 miles. A 13 gallon gasoline tank delivers an additional driving range of 540 miles, for a noteworthy total range of 800 miles between fill-ups.

The natural gas Golf, electric Blue e-Motion Golf variant, and their conventional counterparts are based on the automaker’s MQB architecture that standardizes component parameters among many models. The strategy allows the use of common components across brands, vehicle classes, and even diverse models produced for European, American, Chinese, and growing Indian markets.

MQB, an acronym for the German phrase Modularer Querbaukasten that roughly translates to ‘Modular Transverse Matrix,’ will first be used by the Golf and the successor to the Audi A3. Audi, SKODA, and SEAT A- and B-segment cars will ultimately use the common MQB design strategy. Future VWs using MQB include Polo, Beetle, Scirocco, Jetta, Tiguan, Touran, Sharan, Passat, and CC models.

The key ingredient of the MQB concept is a uniform mounting position for all engines, initially starting with the new EA211 and EA288 modular engine families. This allows a variety of transverse, front-engine, front-wheel drive models to be designed using the same set of components. In addition to standardizing conventional internal combustion engines, the MQB can be used with current alternative drive concepts including hybrid and battery electric vehicles.

Outputs of EA211 four-cylinder engines range from 54 to 148 horsepower. Among them is the world’s first four-cylinder engine with cylinder deactivation. The natural gas EcoFuel variant uses a 1.4 liter engine that makes 109 horsepower. There is also the EA288 MBD (modular diesel engine system) rated at 88.5 to 188 horsepower.

VW's engine and gearbox variants in the MQB system will be reduced by about 90 percent. In the future, both high-volume and niche models of different brands could theoretically be produced on the same assembly line, even if they have different wheelbases and track width. An additional benefit is enabling the use of luxury class technologies in lower cost, high-volume models. As just one example, VW plans 20 such innovations in the areas of safety and infotainment. These, until now, were reserved for more upscale models.

 

Patrick Racing aims to show how clean-burning natural gas can effectively compete amid conventionally and alternatively powered counterparts in American Le Mans Series (ALMS) racing. The team is working with the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), sanctioning body for ALMS racing, to identify development and testing opportunities for natural gas fuel systems to power the Series' Prototype Challenge class during the 2013 season.

Jim McGee, Patrick Racing team manager and chief mechanic, notes what many fans of natural gas already know: This 130 octane fuel is a great choice for racing with plenty of performance potential in a world at speed. That will be evident in Prototype Challenge racing.

The Prototype Challenge class features the ORECA FLM09, a race car with a minimum weight of 1,985 pounds that’s powered by a 430 horsepower LS3 V-8 engine. The race car features a full carbon fiber chassis, carbon brakes, and an Xtrac sequential gearbox with paddle shifting.

IMSA points out that ALMs is the only racing series recognized to comply with the Green Racing protocols developed by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and SAE International. The use of natural gas is viewed as a logical next step in the series' positioning as a leader in green racing.

The goal of all this? The transition of natural gas fuel and technology from the race track to the highway. Green racing is viewed as a pathway for technology developments that will make their way to tomorrow's production vehicles, a role that racing has played in the development of advanced technologies for more than a century. Using ALMS racing as a platform to share how safely and reliably natural gas can be used in a racing environment will show millions of people how this fuel also makes sense for daily transportation.

 

Powered by propane autogas (LPG), the Maxximus LNG 2000 has set three new world records at South Georgia Motorsports Park, according to Fisher Island, Florida-based Centaur Performance Group. These latest record attempts follow additional world records set in January with the car running on liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The project, headed by financier Bruce McMahan and Indianapolis-based designer Marlon Kirby, set its latest records on LPG with the car achieving 0-60 mph in 2.6 seconds, 1/4 mile ET of 10.28 seconds, and 1/4 mile speed of 134 mph. The records set in January running on LNG were 0-60 mph in 1.96 seconds, 0-150 mph in 9.21 seconds, 1/4 mile ET of 9.63 seconds, and 1/4 mile speed of 159.9 mph. The car was driven by Marlon Kirby. The company points out that these achievements make the Maxximus the fastest powered supercar ever created using both LNG and LPG.

The Maxximus LNG 2000 uses self-pressurizing fuel tanks and is capable of running on propane autogas, liquefied natural gas, or compressed natural gas with on-demand adjustments. The car features a carbon fiber body.

Massive power is provided by a 1600+ horsepower twin-turbocharged, all-aluminum 7.0-liter V-8 with gaseous fuel injectors, boost reference gaseous regulators, and cryogenic chilled intercoolers. Amazingly, Centaur says the Maxximus is also 50-state emissions legal.