There’s a growing agreement from most mainstream manufacturers that Electric Power is going to be the way forward for a lot more consumers in the growing years. Yet in most countries, including Ireland, the infrastructre roll out has been lagging behind which is preventing people from making the change to EV’s (electric vehicles). And when you add in the (still) relatively limited range that EV’s offer and higher retail price in most cases, its easy for consumers to turn to the ‘traditional’ methods of combustion.
In a bid to give consumers an alternative, Fiat have this week unveiled their new Doblo Natural Power – a natural gas powered vehicle. Well, its actually natural gas AND petrol powered, as natural gas can power a conventional internal combustion engine with only minor modifications. In terms of driving, there is no torque or power output difference whether its running on petrol or gas.
The benefits? Well for starters, natural gas has the highest energy-to-carbon ratio of any fossil fuel and therefore produces 23 percent less CO² per unit of energy. Methane which is the main component of natural gas, is a by-product of numerous naturally-occurring processes. This gas can be harnessed relatively easily to produce a carbon-neutral energy source, making it more environmentally friendly than EV’s. Although your Electric Vehicle might not porduce any emmissons, they create a huge carbon footprint during their production and unless you own your own windfarm, the electricity you charge it with will come from the burning of fossil fuels in most cases. The other main benefit is that you have the ability to run your car on two power sources, so even if you run out of natural gas, your car will simply switch back over to petrol thus removing any inconvenience when travelling over long distance.
Does it work? Well 400,000 vehicles have been sold in Europe by Fiat over the last ten years, so some people seem to think so. And although that may not sound like a high volume over a decade, Fiat are still the market leaders in this field by a long way.