General Motors Develops Natural Gas-Powered Car

American automobile giant, General Motors (GM), will be developing its first natural gas-powered engine. This is the first time GM will get into the alternative fuel bandwagon and would start introducing into the market car engines that use natural gas.

According to experts, the US is abundant in natural gas which is equivalent to 100 years of supply. The supply was attributed to hydraulic fracturing, a new drilling technique, that releases huge reserves of natural gas that are commonly trapped in shale rock.

Primarily used to generate electricity and other industry needs, natural gas remains underutilized for transportation purposes. There are 120,000 natural gas vehicles in the US with only 900 filling stations. A very low demand when compared to fossil fuel consumption.

Fortunately, natural gas is more likely to remain cheap in the coming years and could help decrease the US reliance on crude oil. This year alone crude oil prices are above US$110.00 per barrel because of instability in the Middle East, but natural gas remains resistant to international demand. There is no shortage of natural gas in the US.

GM natural gas engine
The Chevrolet Nubira LPG engine

Natural gas is becoming more attractive to car makers, manufacturers and fleet owners and they are starting to run their engines on cleaner-burning fossil fuel.

GM is teaming up with Westport Innovations Light-Duty Division, a Vancouver-based company which develops technologies that convert engines to run on natural gas. This partnership is a multimillion-dollar project to develop a natural gas vehicle. They will look at light-weight engines in order to create a market for smaller consumer vehicles.

The renewed interest in natural gas has made this industry to remain attractive due to the long-term oversupply and the possible government support. Even if oil prices retreat again, some in the industry say natural gas will remain attractive due to its long-term abundance and the potential for government support.

In terms of supply, natural gas displaced 360 million gallons of gasoline in 2010 and is still expected to rise to 10 billion gallons in 15 years.

In terms of government support, the Natural Gas Act which was launched in the US House of Representatives last April proposes incentives for purchasing and building natural gas vehicles. The incentives would include a 50 cent per gallon fuel credit, a purchasing credit covering up to 80 percent of the extra cost of a natural gas vehicle and tax breaks for those who will be building the natural gas infrastructure.