Special methane car: everything you need to know about natural gas

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Are you an alternative person, with a strong environmental sensitivity, but you have neither the courage nor the economic possibilities to throw yourself on an electric car? In Italy, the alternative exists and is called methane. And finally, after many years of cars with numerous compromises (in terms of performance, reliability, and maintenance), today the price list offers the possibility to drive more “mature” cars.

Compared to the last time we tried a CNG car – it was February and we were driving the new Volkswagen Polo TGI – the Italian market for cars powered by natural gas is growing), the numbers recorded by natural gas vehicles remain distant from those of the hybrids: 44,000 vehicles from January to June. Although we are growing compared to 2017.

Source: http://www.eafo.eu/content/italy#country_ng_market_share_graph_anchor
Source: http://www.eafo.eu/content/italy#country_ng_market_share_graph_anchor

Two completely different ways of understanding savings: on the one hand the electric that helps to lessen the mechanical parts, with lower consumption and maintenance, on the other a very economical fuel to the pump that allows owners to quickly reach the break-even point with the initial surcharge.

What is safe, in addition to saving, is also the advantage in environmental terms: a car powered by methane emits fewer substances harmful to man and the environment compared to a vehicle with petrol or diesel equivalent. Do you want to know more about CNG cars? Make yourself comfortable because there are so many things to say.

Methane: how is it done?

Identified as Compressed Natural Gas – CNG, compressed natural gas at 220 bar. The volume that would occupy normal atmospheric pressure) is a gaseous fuel composed of a mixture of methane, and, to a minimal extent, from other light hydrocarbons such as propane, butane, and other gases. The application of natural gas for motor vehicles – the same as we find in the network that also supplies our homes – reduces CO2 emissions due to combustion, this because it has, among all fossil fuels, the highest ratio of energy developed and amount of emitted carbon dioxide.

Some numbers: the combustion of one cubic meter of natural gas produces about 38 MJ (10.6 kWh) of energy, but what is most interesting is the cost savings with the same distance obtainable with a CNG car compared to a car equivalent to petrol, a value given by the combination of the greater energy contained in 1kg of methane compared to 1 liter of petrol and the lowest price to the distributor (at the time of publication of the article, the average in Italy it is 0.988 euros per kg ).

Methane: is it true that it pollutes less?

We assume that 1kg of methane is equivalent to about 1.5 liters of petrol in terms of energy yield. So, assuming that a car with petrol serves 8 liters per 100 km, with methane are sufficient approximately 5.2 kg. The CO2 emissions are reduced. Compared to gasoline when using the traditional methane, but it is possible to tear them down through the use of a mixture consisting of methane and biomethane.

Returning to the classic methane, its combustion is rather “lean” compared to that of other fuels, and this results in significantly lower emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx). The emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) are practically zero, while the emissions of fine dust are to be considered irrelevant, always compared to other fuels.

Finally, as it is distributed inside the natural gas pipelines, natural gas does not require a rubber distribution network, with the consequent reduction of polluting emissions already in the so-called “well to wheel” cycle (from the well to the wheel).

And the traffic blocks? Normally methane vehicles (both those leaving the factory with the plant and those transformed at a later time) are not subject to the limitations that instead affect diesel vehicles (generally up to Euro 3) as well as gasoline Euro 0 ( for find out more click here ). In some cities, however, the administrations have decided to limit the circulation (in some time slots) even to the Euro 0 approved petrol-methane vehicles. And the case, for example, of Turin. However, these are local measures, so my advice is to inquire about the websites and information desks of individual regional/municipal entities.

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