Fiat & Chrysler ditch hybrid cars in favor of natural gas

Fiat & Chrysler ditch hybrid cars in favor of natural gas In the search for the next green car many automakers have pinned their hopes on hybrid technology. The combination of a gasoline engine and battery pack system has had the attention of car buyers with hybrids like Toyota’s Prius to Chevy’s new Volt. Fiat, however, is betting on natural gas to help them grab a part of the green car market in the US.

Fiat’s beef with hybrid cars is all about money. Instead of sinking a lot of cash into developing new technology like batteries, why not use their knowledge of cars powered by natural gas to crack the US market? After all, the US is the world’s largest producer of natural gas, the fuel is pretty cheap to produce, and it is cleaner than regular gasoline.

The Italian automaker has a long history of using liquefied natural gas (LNG) or compressed natural gas (CNG) to power their cars. Fiat has locked up 80% of the consumer based market in Europe by promoting the technology through flex-fuel type cars that operate via natural gas as well as gasoline.

While Fiat has hinted about adding natural gas engines to Chrysler’s current lineup, it seems that their latest move may be targeting the commercial market. 55% Of natural gas based light commercial vehicles in Europe are Fiats, a number that includes everyday transport vehicles like delivery vans or postal trucks. Instead of relying on the 1,300 natural gas stations in the US, these fleets could be managed through a single fueling point at a regional hub or central office.

LNG or CNG engines aren’t as dirt cheap as their gasoline cousins but they are still cheaper than the average hybrid motor. There’s only a $3,000 difference between the cost of a gasoline based car when compared to one powered by natural gas. Fiat estimates that the additional cost for a hybrid car is about $8,000.

Fiat and Chrysler don’t have solid plans yet to bring natural gas cars and trucks to the US, but they will soon join the natural gas vehicles association in Washington D.C. The duo may only be in the planning stages but they’ve hit on an important change in consumers; MPG is the new MPH. Corporations and everyday consumers are more concerned with the intrinsic value of their car rather than how fast it travels. Until there’s a strong infrastructure for EV’s, car buyers and fleet managers will be looking for affordable options rather than dealing with high gas prices.

Comments

I think its a good decison that balances with the demands, practicality and current trends with given conditions. And, many cities have already made it compulsory to use CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) for <a href="http://www.fiatprofessional.co.uk">commercial vehicles</a> and public transit systems. On top of it, this considerably eco-friendly as well.

With GE leading the way with hybrids (GE just committed to <a href="http://www.thegreenjobbank.com/stories/ge-a-boon-to-electric-vehicle-manufacturers-gm-and-itself">buying 25,000</a> of them in the next 3 years, including 12,000 Chevy Volts), the battle is won by the hybrid side. I don't believe companies with large fleets will take a gamble on Chrysler/Fiat and natural gas.  Plug-in hybrids are so much easier to deal with... just plug them in!

The battle is won?  LMAO!

I guess the many bus and taxi fleets (LA metro is now all CNG...except for one EV in trial) and corp fleets (Verizon and ATT) must just be stupid then right?

Clearly you meant GM...not GE.  Psst...GM disagrees with you by the way.  They have partnered with Fuel System Solutions division PCI to make....wait for it... CNG fleet vans and light trucks. 

It is about cost.  With a PHEVs, you still are using gasoline (most of the time - more expensive and much more dirty than CNG) and then when on power, your emissions are what ever the grid is burning (2009 it was 50% from burning coal.) 

The primary factor limiting CNG now is station access, but they are growing fast.  And guess what, like PHEVs, you can fill at home.   I you have a gas water heater or stove in your house...you can also add a PHIL (also by Fuel System Solutions) which allows one to fill the tank at home from the nat gas utility.  Of course with PHEVs, you more than likely will still be buying a lot of gas at a station.

PHEVs are cool tech no doubt ...but are clearly more expensive to buy and maintain.  When you do your research and the math, CNG comes out better nearly every time. 

The only places where PHEVs is better than CNG is for rural users who do not have close by CNG stations or a home gas line but do have power, but also do not drive much.  But I suspect most of these folks will stick with gas...or horse and buggy. 

 

 

I don't know...in the long run, electric vehicles cost far less. You don't have to tune them up, no oil change, no spark plug changes, no timing belts or other trappings of a normal internal combustian engine. And EVs are so much more effecient! Internal combustion engines, whether they run on gasoline or LNG/CNG, are far less effecient. The only issue that LNG/CNG addresses is existing infrastructure and fewer emissions (than gasoline).

Also note: we will eventually run out of LNG/CNG like we are running out of oil now. We will NEVER run out of electricity.

 

HJ :O)

EVs cost far less?  I guess you haven't done the math either.  Those batteries are very expensive and they don't last for ever and need to be replaced.

And if it is a PHEV, you DO have spark plugs and oil in its gasoline burning internal combustion engine.  

With new technology, we are finding more economical sources of CNG... new estimates now are we will not "run out" for CNG for over 200 yrs.