Switch to CNG makes driving a gas

Dale Beede enumerates the goals he achieved in purchasing a new car that runs on compressed natural gas.

Dale Beede drives a 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas, a vehicle powered with compressed natural gas. While the Grand Junction real estate broker said he wants to support the energy industry, he also enjoys driving a car that’s cleaner and more economical. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Support the energy industry that supports his commercial real estate firm. Check.

Help reduce dependence on foreign oil, if only a little bit. Check.

Reduce automotive emissions. Check.

Save money. Check.

“This was a win-win for me,” said Beede, broker and partner at Coldwell Banker Commercial Prime Properties in Grand Junction.

Moreover, Beede heartily recommends compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles to anyone considering buying one whether they’re similarly motivated or simply want a vehicle that burns a cleaner fuel at a lower cost.

Beede purchased a 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas in March from Fuoco Motor Co., the first CNG model sold by the Grand Junction dealer. The experience since then, he said, has been satisfying. “I’m sold.”

Beede said he decided to purchase a CNG vehicle in large part to support the energy industry that produces natural gas in Western Colorado. With the lettering on the back that indicates it burns natural gas, the car draws attention. And Beede said he’s been thanked repeatedly by people who work in the energy industry for supporting that industry.

In a larger sense, though, Beede said he considers natural gas an increasingly important energy source that could be used to not only reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil used to make gasoline, but also reduce emissions. “To me, it’s the wave of the future. And I think we need to embrace it more quickly than not.”

Beede said even he’s been surprised by how cleanly the engine of his new car runs. “It burns so clean that when you pull up the dipstick, you can’t see the color of the oil, which I’m just totally amazed with.”

What’s more, the CNG Honda Civic is more economical to drive than his other vehicles, Beede said. “They stay in the garage.”

The car gets 28 to 30 miles per gallon in the city and up to 38 MPG on the highway, he said. And natural gas sells for far less than that comparative amount of gasoline. Beede said the most he’s spent to fill up his new car is $18.

While Beede initially was concerned the vehicle might be underpowered and have difficulty getting over mountain passes, that hasn’t been the case.

Refueling hasn’t been a problem, either, he said, with the Monument Clean Fuels station on the Riverside Parkway in Grand Junction. In fact, that facility is better than the CNG refueling stations he’s used in Denver, Beede said.

And with a CNG fueling station also located in Rifle, it’s possible to drive back and forth between Grand Junction and Denver, Beede said.

As more new CNG vehicles are sold and existing gasoline-powered vehicles are converted to natural gas, Beede expects more fueling stations to open.

Lynn Robison, Honda sales manager at Fuoco Motor Co., said there’s increasing interest in CNG vehicles. “Natural gas really is the coming thing.”

While there initially was a lengthy waiting period to purchase the Civic Natural Gas models, that wait has become shorter, Robison said.

And for businesses interested in purchasing the model as part of their fleet, the wait is shorter still, he added.

Bryan Wilson, director of the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, estimates there are between 100,000 and 115,000 natural gas-powered vehicles on the road in the U.S. — a number that hasn’t changed appreciably over the past decade.

Nonetheless, Wilson believes there’s potential to use more natural gas as a transportation fuel.

In a presentation at the Energy Expo & Forum in Grand Junction earlier this year, Wilson said natural gas vehicles can be equipped for longer ranges. What’s more, many natural gas pipelines in the U.S. are located near major highways, which would make it easier to construct fueling stations along those highways.