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German Natural Gas Vehicle Registrations on the Rise; All Alternative Drives Pass 1% Mark in October

The dual-fuel Fiat Panda Panda goes on sale in Germany at the beginning of 2007.

Trägerkreises Erdgasfahrzeuge reports a steady rise in natural gas vehicle registrations in Germany.

German registrations of compressed natural gas (CNG) passenger cars in October 2006 climbed 2,180 units, more than 300% of the October 2005 figure. From January to October 2006, Germans registered 9,231 natural gas passenger cars, representing a 47% increase year-on-year. There are now more than 50,000 natural gas vehicles on the road in Germany.

Sales of all alternative fuel and powertrain vehicles alternatives passed 1 % of all new passenger car registrations in 2006 for the first time in October. In addition to the 2,180 CNG cars, there were 412 gasoline-electric hybrids and 429 cars powered by LPG.

German drivers of natural gas vehicles receive a price break at the pump, with CNG costing less than both gasoline and diesel.

In the summer of 2006, Volkswagen introduced to the German market the new Caddy EcoFuel and Touran Ecofuel, while Opel introduced the Opel Zafira 1.6 CNG. Fiat will introduce a new Panda bi-power (the “Panda Panda”) at the beginning of 2007.

At the same time, the German fueling infrastructure is growing—from 700 stations today to 1,000 units projected by the end of 2008.

The Panda Panda will feature a new 1.2-liter, 8-valve engine with a dual gasoline/methane fuel system. The car, derived from the 4x4 version, incorporates two separate methane tanks, each with a capacity of 72 liters. The two tanks fitted in this way allow the same amount of room as on the original car for both passenger and luggage (approximately 200 litres with the rear seats upright).

The Panda Panda supports a driving range of 300 kilometers (186 miles) on methane only. The standard 30-liter gasoline tank capacity remains unchanged.

Natural gas vehicles reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 23% compared to the equivalent petrol vehicles and reduce particulate matter (PM) emissions to practically zero. The Panda Panda will emit 114 g CO2/km in methane mode, compared to 146 g/km in gasoline mode (combined cycle).

(A hat-tip to John!)


John Baldwin

maybe someone will convert the H2 BMW 7 series to run on CNG...will be a lot better in relation to well to wheel CO2 that there is a national CNG infrastructure ion Germany, time to leave petrol behind.

Max Reid

With a base of 5 million vehicles and natural gas available in natural state and also obtainable from waste, its better to pursue this option.

Automakers should offer bi-fuel vehicles with a range of 10 miles on CNG and 300 miles on Gas/Petrol. At 10 miles / day, it can run 3000 - 3600 miles / year.

It will emulate the plugin-hybrid concept and also be cheaper.

I guess Brazil may accelerate this concept and others may follow.

Rafael Seidl

John -

we Europeans get much our gas from Russia, which exposes us to a lot of political risk, much like importing oil from the Persian Gulf does. Running on natural or biogas is much smarter than running any vehicle on hydrogen, but try telling that to the folks at CARB, EPA or their German equivalent.

CNG already makes economic sense for certain vehicle categories, such as city buses, certain commercial vehicles and light duty commercial vehicles. These feature high annual mileage and their operators need to minimize total cost of ownership. In Germany, a commitment to low taxes on CNG through 2020 offsets the higher initial purchase price (which businesses can amortize anyhow). Lower harmful emissions than diesels are a valuable fringe benefit, though CO2 output is actually the same or worse. CNG also makes eminent sense for countries with substantial domestic gas supplies, e.g. Argentina, Italy, Pakistan and Iran.

So far, no government anywhere has permitted the integration of the pressure tanks into the vehicle structure due to concerns about crash and leak safety. Solving that would reduce enable reductions in vehicle mass and available space via novel frame architectures.

In addition, the fuel is usually injected into the intake ports, displacing air that would otherwise be drawn in. For a CNG variant to maintain rated power relative to base gasoline design required direct injection and/or boosting, e.g. via a turbocharger. Raising the compression ratio also helps, but renders emergency gasoline operation low on both power and efficiency (cp. Opel's monovalent-plus concept).



Both CARB and EPA have nothing to do with promoting and financing of hydrogen R&D. It is done mostly via DOE, and on comparatively moderate scale, considering the amount of other spending. Actually, I do not see anything wrong to governments to support (but not hype!) distant, but extremely potent technology.

John Baldwin

German news is very exciting....

see this website, see the Opel presentation and the one from Bernard Jeken:

We can save the planet!!!

Also, Europe will be awash with gas for next 10 years ....we need to do something with it. UK prices have fallen by 80% this year!!


This is what I would call an FFV. I think all cars sold in the U.S. should be able to run on E85/M85 and anyone should be able to order the CNG option, with the Phill CNG wall unit for your garage.

Rafael Seidl

Andrey -

have you heard of California's ZEV legislation? That didn't come from the DOE, which actually favors diesels. And where CARB goes, EPA and the rest of the world's regulators tend to eventually follow. While it's true that CARB does not actually finance much hydrogen research, it really does use its regulatory power to force everyone else to do so. Tail wagging dog.


providing a CNG option is MUCH more involved than upgrading a few hoses, seals and filters in the fuel system to cope with the more aggressive E85 (alcohol is a solvent). For CNG, you need to find space for a special and quite heavy tank. If you care about maintaining rated power in a port fuel injection engine, you have to add a super- or turbocharger. Plus, you have to support backup operation on gasoline during the transition period of setting up a distribution network.

Unlike some other countries, the US doesn't have a whole lot of natural gas to spare for transportation. I would expect CNG vehicles there to remain niche players for specialty commercial applications.



“Tail wagging dog”

Well, however strange it sounds, on this side of the pond it is how things are done. Clean Air Act of 1963 stated that people have the right to breeze clean air. CARB and EPA impose emission standards, as the rule of thumb extremely on the edge of vehicular technology or even beyond, and vehicle manufacturers have to comply. Way different approach as it is customary in Europe, where proliferation of dirty diesel cars occured way before any attempts to clean-up their exhaust. I still could not comprehend that DPF are not outright mandatory in EU.

As for California ZEV mandate, I really surprised that you do not have clear idea what it is about. I strongly suggest you to get a grip on the regulation which (with customary 10 years delay) will define the future of even European vehicular market. Try to start with:

Rafael Seidl

Andrey -

the original intent of ZEV was to clean up California's air pollution problems by forcing companies to give 10+% of their entire new-car fleet sales all-electric propulsion. GM duly built the EV1 to prove to CARB that the technology was not ready for prime time in economic terms.

To "save" its ZEV mandate, CARB then came up with an elaborate system of credits for specified propulsion systems, including fuel cells, hybrids and CNG vehicles. Nevertheless, as of 2005, manufacturers shipping more than 60,000 vehicles a year are supposed to deliver at least 2% "Gold Standard" vehicles with zero tailpipe emissions. In parctice, that means BEVs or FCVs.

An alternative compliance option specifies a minimum number of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (250 anually through 2008, 2500 in MY 2009-2011, 25000 in MY 2012-2014 and 30000 in MY 2015-2017). This option permits meeting the "Gold Standard" quota using AT PZEVs instead.

Given that CA, NY, MA, VT and ME, the states subject to CARB rules, together comprise about 1/3 of the US automotive market, I believe it is correct to state that CARB is indeed forcing the development and production of BEVs and FCVs irrespective of the economics involved.

Btw, Euro 5 will be all-but-impossible to meet without DPFs. Peugeot introduced the first mass-produced filters in 2003, too late for them to be included in the then-current generation of cars designed to meet Euro 4. Before then, the technology simply wasn'`t ready for prime time, as Mercedes had discovered to its cost when it tried to introduce a much earlier version of it to California as early as the 1980s.

With a lot of engineering effort, VW, Mercedes and others figured out how to meet Euro 4 even without a DPF, which costs more. However, consumers reacted by demanding DPFs anyhow to safeguard resale values, forcing these manufacturers to make them standard or available option today. In other words, the market is for once ahead of the regs, at least in some EU member states. Anyone offering a model without one gets dinged mercilessly in the German automotive press (I suspect the same is true in France and the UK).

Smart was pilloried because their filter is a 30% effective flow-through type that allowed the old Euro 3 diesel to barely meet Euro 4. The general public has been led to assume that all DPFs are wall-flow types with 98% effectiveness, so environmentalists have claimed DCX was engaged in false advertising.



GM have spent 2.5 B$ (1995) to develop EV1 in the hope to capitalize on emerging market of EV vehicles. Incredible stupidity and technical illiteracy of their management, especially outrageous because of engineering background of GM executives, who advertised immediate potential of EV vehicles (even when 10 years and 100 B$ later this technology is still highly speculative) assured extreme disrespect to GM from engineering, investment, and consumer community in the years to come.

CARB is continue to push vehicle manufacturers to the extreme limits, 2007-2009 emission requirements for on-road heavy-duty diesel engines is the prime example.

P.S. I truly admire your highly valued for educational purposes ability to popularize to GCC readers modern technical issues.

However, it does not work well when you try to educate professionals by the data gathered from Wikipedia-level publications.

Your insight on European issues concerning DPF is highly appreciated.


If you took all the NG Canada is going to use processing tar sands and piped it to the U.S. you would have more than enough NG to run lots of CNG cars. You can also gasify 1B tons of agriculture biomass to 100B therms of SNG. That would eliminate lots of problems in the Canada and the U.S.


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I had my beautiful Alfa Romeo 164 3.0 V6 converted in a bifuel methane CNG vehicle in Italy. If I had italian numberplates everything would have been ok. But I have german ones and for the conversion to be legal in Germany I would have to get my exaust gasses certified. But who would pay €/USD 1800 for an exam when the old but otherwise perfect car is worth (on the market) only half the money? So I have to convert it back to smelly monofuel and another opportunity is lost. Burocracy is stupid.

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