Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about Alternative Fuel Engines.
Alternate or Alternative Fuel has been a buzz word in the transportation field for many years, but it has only been in the last few years that it has come into the limelight. Simply stated, any fuel used to operate a motor vehicle besides traditional gasoline and diesel fuels is an alternate fuel.
An alternate fuel can be as simple as alcohol blended with gasoline. However, with the Clean Air Act, the term has been redefined to suit government standards. There are two areas of concern with respect to alternative fuels. One is that alternate fuels should burn cleaner with fewer, less harmful by-products. The other is that alternate fuels should reduce the United States' dependence on foreign oil.
The more common alternate fuels are Compressed Natural Gas or CNG, Propane, Methanol blends and Ethanol.
CNG and Propane thus far seem to be the most popular choices for fleets who are mandated by several governmental regulations to convert a percentage of their vehicles to some form of alternative fuel engines. The cost of conversion will be more than offset by the savings in fuel over the life of the vehicle. Propane conversions involve similar technology and equipment as that found in CNG conversions but are less expensive to perform. Propane and CNG are both clean burning and contaminate engine oil less than gasoline but do burn at much higher temperatures.
The Federal Government has passed two pieces of legislation affecting the use of alternative fuels. The first is the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA) and the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPACT). Both of these acts are designed to promote the use of alternate transportation fuels and alternate transportation vehicles. CAAA requires private and governmental fleets to use clean fuel vehicles in specified non-attainment areas beginning with the 1998 model year. Requirements for federal fleets began in 1993 and those for state fleets began in 1995. EPACT requires the use of alternate fuel vehicles for light-duty fleets with 50 or more vehicles located in metropolitan areas with populations greater than 250,000. In addition, many states are enacting requirements that exceed the mandates of federal legislation.
A CNG refueling station stores natural gas at pressures between 2400 psi and 3600 psi. Storage at 3600 psi is becoming the norm because a greater concentration of fuel can be stored in the same size area. Fuel is then pumped into the vehicle in much the same manner as traditional gasoline or diesel fuels. Compressed Natural Gas vehicles have two fueling options. A fast-fill takes three to five minutes while the slow-fill takes six to twelve hours. The slow fill does not require as large a compressor as does a fast fill and is therefore less expensive. Slow fills are generally used by fleets whose vehicles are stored in a central overnight facility.
Natural gas vehicles are safe from several standpoints...
Most vehicles converted to run on an alternate fuel such as CNG or Propane operate in a similar manner. There are a few differences, however. Here's an example of how a vehicle converted to CNG (compressed natural gas) operates:
There are several conversion systems on the market. Some are designed to work only with select vehicles while others will work with a broad range of cars, vans and trucks. Conversion system costs vary as does the time it takes to install a system. A JASPER Alternative Fuel staff member will be happy to discuss the options available and help you select a system that is best for your particular needs and application.