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Mercedes-Benz Expands Center of Competence for Natural Gas Engines

Mercedes-Benz has expanded its center of competence for emissions-free commercial vehicles (Kompetenzzentrum für emissionsfreie Nutzfahrzeuge, KEN) to become the Mercedes-Benz Production Competence Center for Natural Gas Drive.  The company’s goal is to provide natural gas vehicles (NGV) in all segments.

When first established in October 1994, KEN was part of the Commercial Vehicles division. Since 2002 the center has been part of the Vans division, as the largest projects from that time onwards involved vans. At that time the predecessor of today’s Sprinter was manufactured there with a monovalent natural-gas engine.

The E-Class and the Econic are already being fitted with natural-gas engines at the Mannheim plant. With the opening of the new facility, they will be joined by the Sprinter and the B-Class. Up to 16 natural-gas variants of the Mercedes Sprinter will be available from the Mercedes-Benz Production Competence Centre for Natural Gas Drive.

In 2003, Mercedes-Benz sold 300 natural gas vehicles; the target for 2008 is 5,000.

(A hat-tip to John!)



If we converted 10% of the cars in the U.S. to natural gas we would only use 2% more natural gas than we do now. That is one sure way of cleaning the air and using less oil. There are only about 100,000 natural gas powered vehicles in the U.S. now. Making that number more like 1 million in the next 5 years is an achievable goal and a fine start down the path where we need to go.


Unfortunately, we have no CNG refueling infrastructure to speak of, and 99% of CNG vehicles in the U.S.A. are Fleet. Only the Civic GX CNG is available for sale to the public in the U.S. There are only 150,000 CNG vehicles running in this country as opposed to upwards of 1.5 million CNG cars on the road in each of Pakistan, Brazil, and Argentina, despite what could be easily available and cheap Natural Gas. How pathetic and short-sighted is the energy policy in the United States?! Are all of our representatives feeding
at the trough of Big Brother Oil?
It's hard to convert your existing vehicle to CNG only
because a conversion is so expensive and to find
someone certified to do it for you is next to impossible. Ford and GM make CNG cars, but they are notr available in the United States unless you can find a used fleet vehicle on e-Bay, and everyone in Utah
is snapping those up because CNG is only $.63 per
gallon equivalent there. As far as refueling infrastructure, the only places you can refuel are
city yards (if they let you, or are open) and at the
gas company (same problem). The only alternative to
that is a device made by Fuelmaker, MyPhil, which is
a CNG refueling compressor you can have connected to
your home gas pipe in the garage. It's too easy to
get stranded on a long trip. I'd convert in a snap,
if I could, or if I thought I wouldn't get stranded
in gang-bang land.


Texas oil billionaire T Boone Pickens believes the use of NG for transportation in the USA would cut our oil imports by 40%.


70% of the 50 million homes in the U.S. have natural gas. With the Phill compressor from FuelMaker, you can just fill up in your garage. After there are enough cars, stations will invest in the equipment.

John Taylor

The entire point of getting off oil is to get off of fossil fuels altogether. We do want a clean vibrant earth to give to our children don't we? ... Or do we think the cleaning fairy will show up and fix every thing?

Switching from gasoline to natural gas is not really an improvement.

John Baldwin

The big plus from CNG is that renewable methane is the best second generation biofuel. It is made now in significant volumes at landfill sites and sewage treatment works and new Anaerobic Digesters are proposed across the EU. An acre of land that grows crops that are converted to renewable methane will transport a car or bus or truck twice as far as if the crops are converted to biodiesel or bioethanol.

At todays energy prices we canot afford the 'waste of energy' involved in second generation liquid biofuels, it has to be renewable methane.

Worth loking at this video:

Kimberly Taylor

This needs to be firmly placed in the "you ain't seen nothin' yet" category. I saw a full page ad in today's Denver Post funded by the Clean Skies Foundation, which is tied to Chesapeake Energy. While it was about natural gas for utilities, Chesapeake is promoting natural gas for transportation and you'll see a lot more from them in the very near future. Boone Pickens is the primary funder behind a November ballot initiative in California that would put up $5 billion in bonds which would be for buying alternative fuel vehicles, among other things. He wouldn't invest that heavily unless there are some new vehicle options in his back pocket. Another company, Standard Taxi, has been making the rounds at auto shows and their plan is a national market with their cab that can run on gasoline, CNG or LPG. There's a lot of momentum and demand since natural gas has the combined beauty of being clean and much cheaper than gasoline or diesel.


ANG can provide greater range at lower pressures. Refueling in your garage is a great idea and gasification of biomass to synthetic methane can provide all we need for 100 million cars.

dave burgdorff

Several European companies, Mercedes, VW, and Saab (owned by GM?), make what they call bi-fuel cars that run on natural gas or premium gas. The reason the gas has to be premium is because natural gas is high octane. The fuel converts on the run at the push of a button. There would be no need to worry about being stranded.

Unfortunately these cars are not available in the U.S. They probably don't meet our clean air and safety standards. I think we should temporarily suspend these standards so European cars that average 37 to 39 mpg could be available in the U.S.


Dual fuel cars make a lot of sense. If you want to convert a car in the U.S. to run on NG, you have to use an approved kit. Very few kits are approved and getting one approved costs more than $50,000 for each model in California.

If we want to DO something about the oil situation, we could start by streamlining the process for natural gas conversion kit approvals. People may be more willing to convert their present car than buy a new one. It is a matter of availability and the red tape involved in getting a conversion kit approved makes that more difficult.

richard schumacher

It's more sensible to use liquid fuels for vehicles because they're more compact and easy to handle. It is also relatively easy to manufacture artificial liquid hydrocarbon fuels which are carbon-neutral. Gaseous fuels should be reserved for fixed-site uses, namely power generation and heat. There is considerable infrastructure already largely in place for all these applications, thus largely avoiding slow and expensive conversions, retrofits and new construction.

Coal should not be used as a fuel at all, only as a feedstock for plastics and chemicals which don't contribute to atmospheric CO2.


It is one thing to say that liquid fuels are the way, but where are the biomass to liquid fuel plants? Who is going to invest the billions of dollars necessary and how many years will it take to bring them online? CNG, SNG, ANG can all be done NOW with very little cost.

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