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Mercedes-Benz Shows Upcoming Natural Gas Sprinter at UK Commercial Vehicle Show

The Sprinter 316 NGT prototype.

Mercedes-Benz had its prototype Sprinter 316 NGT natural gas van on display at the Commercial Vehicle show in the UK. The new version of the dual-fuel van is slated for series production in 1Q 2008.

Although DaimlerChrysler has offered a natural gas version of the Sprinter since 1997, this is the first time the company has built a compressed natural gas version of the Sprinter from first principles. In the past, the NGT Sprinters have used a conversion from a gasoline engine—the M 111 E 23.

The new Sprinter 316 NGT meets the “enhanced environmentally friendly vehicles” (EEV) standard (earlier post), and produces 25% less CO2 than the gasoline version, and zero net CO2 if run on biomethane. EEV is a voluntary standard with the most stringent emissions levels established by the European Community.

The new vehicle also delivers more power and performance than its predecessor. The new engine delivers 115 kW (156 hp) of power, with 240 Nm (177 lb-ft) of torque. Range on CNG is 450 km (280 miles), with a total dual fuel range of 1,200 km (746 miles). The older version of the Sprinter NGT produces 95 kW (129 hp) of power and 185 Nm (136 lb-ft) of torque.

The vehicle is currently being trialed in Germany by DHL, Deutsche Post and UPS.

(A hat-tip to John!)


John Baldwin

Running on bio-methane (of which the UK has a large amount, collected at sewage works and used to make electricity) this means we have a zero CO2 means of transport that drives like any diiesel vehicle, with no range issue and close to zero NOX and particulates.

This is a sensational development and will be transformational. With 800 CNG filling stations built in Germany in last 5 years, expect this vehicle to gain huge sales.

At last, a sustainable answer to the threat of global warming.


This is a good, practical thing.
A van designed from the outset to run on CNG which will be clean, low co2 and affordable.
CNG has a lot of potential (with or without hybridisation) as an alternate fuel, either fossil or bio.
There is work to be done on storage, but presumably this is not such a problem with a van (as opposed to a smaller car).

Rafael Seidl

@ John Baldwin -

you probably wouldn't run a vehicle on pure biomethane because of fluctuations in fuel quality, lack of distribution infrastructure and potential odor problems at filling stations. Instead, you would switch industrial furnaces to bio-methane and use the NG that is no longer burnt there in transportation applications. The net effect relative to CO2 emissions is the same, of course.

The alternative is to blend in scrubbed bio-methane with natural gas and feed that into the general distribution grid. At least one gas supplier in Germany is taking this route.

CNG vehicles do not drive like diesel-powered vehicles. They feature PFI, which in this case means that air in the intake manifold is displaced by fuel, reducing power. A supercharger or turbo is required to compensate until direct injection systems become available for CNG. Even then, the extra weight of the CNG tanks is comparable to the penalty of the diesel engine over the gasoline variant. However, the relative lack of low-end torque in CNG engines is still quite noticeable, i.e. you typically have to rev higher and suffer higher noise levels than with gasoline, at comparable performance levels.

Also, CNG engines are still spark ignition engines and have to meet the same emissions standards as gasoline variants. Homogenous natural gas mixtures will still ignite at quite lean air-fuel ratios and, this does reduce engine-out NOx levels. However, you'd almost certainly still need to apply one of the lean-burn NOx aftertreatment systems.

So, while CNG is definitely a valuable option wrt fuel sources, the performance characteristics of CNG drivetrains are not quite as good as you seem to think.


There is also a U.S. company that can scrub biomethane into pipeline quality gas. Intrepid Tecnology & Resources. I believe they also own their own CNG filling station. Located in Idaho in the Magic Valley area of large dairy farms they have a good supply of manure. Idaho senator Craig introduced legislation to support biomethane. The natural gas infrastructure is already in place and I believe this is the most feasable and quickest way to address CO2 emissions.

John Baldwin


Its very easy to clean bio-gas and make it into bio-methane - basically remove H2S and CO2. This market is taking off big time in Switzerland, Sweden...all the buses in Lille run on bio-methane. No technical issues at this market grow, zero CO2 and EEV standard NOX and particulates is the way to go.

Rafael Seidl

@ John Baldwin -

well, the Germans appear to be doing what you suggest. However, your assertion that burning NG or SNG in an ICE would eliminate NOx emissions is baseless.


aka "gas guzzler", but it smells better then a "gasoline guzzler"


More than one US company can scrub biogas to pipeline specs:  Acrion's CO2 Wash.


So far, the most effective use of biogas (65% methane 34% CO2 by volume, and some stinky HC and H2S) is minimal scrubbing to remove HC, hydrogen sulfide to avoid sulfur oxide emissions, and some part of CO2. Then purified gas is burned on the spot to power high compression ratio lean burn spark-ignition diesel generators. Produced electricity is used to run sewage treatment plant or is sold to the grid, and waste heat from engine coolant and partially exhaust is used to heat-up anaerobic digester. Anaerobic digester requires at least 35 C, or preferably 55 C. Additional CO2 in gaseous fuel serves as cooled EGR, and combined with extremely lean burn, engine is very efficient and produces very little NOx.

It works well on stationary generators, but to maintain exact lean mixtures in high compression engines for transportation use is very tricky. That’s why automotive NG and SNG engines still use lower compression ratio, stoichiometric mixtures, and exhaust aftertreatment.

John Baldwin


You said "However, your assertion that burning NG or SNG in an ICE would eliminate NOx emissions is baseless"

I never said NG eliminates NOX or particulates, I said it meets the EEV Standard for emissions which no diesel vehicle is likely to meet before 2015!

Dave C

When will it be avaialable in the USA? I want one or two!

Bob Bastard

@Andrey: spark-ignition diesel?



“spark ignition diesel” – yes, it is bizarre wording, but it is actually what is used in industry. High compression lean-burn NG spark ignition, or dual-fuel NG/diesel oil (compression ignition of pilot injection of small amount of diesel fuel ignites NG/air charge) are invariable converted from conventional diesel engines. BTW, how one would say “diesel generator” if it uses NG? Gas generator?

Max Reid

Is it possible for this type of vehicle to have both CNG & LNG. For companies where the vehicles will drive 500 km (300 miles) / day, they can use LNG and for those who drive less than 200 km (120 miles) / day can use CNG.

In Brazil, they have tri-brid vehicles running on Gasolene, Ethanol and CNG.

John Baldwin


This Sprinter will do 450km on CNG and 1200km in total....range not really an issue anymore...driver runs out of legal driving hours before running out of CNG!



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