Natural Gas Prices At All-Time Low
With natural gas prices at an all-time low and the number of natural gas (NG) vehicles increasing, GE researchers partnered with Chart Industries and scientists at the University of Missouri will be developing affordable “at-home” re-fueling station, according to GE’s press statement.
GE Global Research and their partners had been awarded a program through Advanced Research Projects for Energy (ARPA-E) that would meet the latter’s target of US$500 per station and reduce re-fueling times from 5-8 hours to less that 1 hour, the statement says.
Overall System Design Integration
The total cost of the 28-month program will be approximately US$2.3 million, which will be shared by ARPA-E and GE. GE researchers will focus on overall system design integration. Chart Industries and the University of Missouri will address the detailed engineering, cost and manufacturability of the key system components.
Several barriers are preventing greater adoption of this vehicle technology and these include the inconvenience and low availability of re-fueling stations plus the limited driving range of NG vehicles.
At-Home Re-Fueling Stations
At the same time, at-home re-fueling stations in the market today cost US$5,000, which is very expensive, and takes NG vehicle owners longer time to re-fuel. The 5-8 hours required to re-fuel an NG vehicle leaves overnight re-fueling the only viable option.
“Since the beginning of the automotive industry, cars and trucks have driven on diesel fuel or unleaded gas,” says Anna Lis Laursen, project leader and chemical engineer at GE Global Research. “But with new technologies to reduce the cost of NG re-fueling and continued improvements in battery technology, the prospects for vehicles that run on alternative fuels will only grow.”
Reducing Time and Cost of Re-Fueling
“The goal of our project is to design an at-home refueling station that is much simpler in design, more cost effective and reduces re-fueling times to under an hour,” she says. “By reducing the time and cost of re-fueling, we can break down the barriers that are preventing more widespread adoption of NG vehicles.”
The number of NG vehicles is currently estimated at around 15 million. More than 250,000 of which are in the U.S., mostly fleet vehicles such as buses and delivery trucks, but some passenger cars are also included. Improving the infrastructure to support NG vehicles, penetrating this market could be much higher.
GE sees that at-home re-fueling options offer a robust and cost-effective infrastructure and the at-home refueling station it’s developing with Chart Industries and the University of Missouri could meet this challenge.
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