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Clean Energy Joins Investment Group Funding New Natural Gas Vehicle in US

An earlier prototype of the VPG natural-gas taxi, at the New York Auto Show in 2007.

Clean Energy Fuels Corp., the leading provider of natural gas (CNG and LNG) for transportation in North America, has joined an investment group providing funding to help launch a new, natural gas vehicle made in the US for taxi and paratransit use. Clean Energy committed a $10-million investment in an overall $160-million equity financing for OEM Vehicle Production Group LLC, led by Perseus LLC, a merchant bank and private equity fund management company.

Separately, Clean Energy’s co-founder, T. Boone Pickens, has committed a $10-million investment to the funding package. Pickens recently launched the “Pickens Plan”, which calls for developing windpower to displace the 22% of electricity currently produced by natural gas, thereby freeing that natural gas up for use as a transportation fuel.

VPG is working with General Motors through VPG’s on-highway integrator Powertrain Integration LLC. Marketing, technical, and infrastructure logistical support for the CNG model will be provided by Clean Energy Fuels Corp. The vehicle will be assembled by AM General LLC, in Mishawaka, Indiana, and will employ a front-engine, rear-wheel drive architecture which includes a body-on-frame structure. Vehicle production launch is projected for the first quarter of 2010.

The vehicle includes an integrated automatic ramp that will provide quick and easy access for individuals who use wheelchairs, motorized scooters and other mobility devices. Originally introduced as the “Standard Taxi”, VPG’s vehicle has undergone design and functional enhancements based on input from the marketplace.

VPG also has marketing relationships with MV Transportation (MV), the largest private provider of paratransit services and the largest privately-held transportation contracting firm in the United States, and The Motion Group of Companies (MGC) in Canada, under which MV and MGC will sell vehicles into municipal and commercial paratransit fleets. It is anticipated that a consumer model of the vehicle will be marketed through existing automotive dealers who will also provide vehicle preparation, delivery and service.

The 2009 Vortec 4.3L V-6.

The vehicle will use GM’s Vortec 4.3-liter V-6 (LU3) that is currently applied in the Silverado and Sierra pickups and Express and Savana vans. GM ceased production of natural gas versions of its vans in the US in 2004. Those vehicles were based on the Vortec 6000 6.0L V-8 with alternative fuel systems.

GM at the time used IMPCO Technologies for the alternative fuel system conversion in its natural gas vehicles. IMPCO’s alternative fuel systems were jointly developed with GM and validated to GM standards. The systems were fuel injected, had a temperature-compensated fuel gauge reading (taking both the temperature and pressure of CNG into account) and a fast-fill fuel receptacle on the CNG system. IMPCO is a partner with Starcraft in Powertrain Integration LLC.

In a recent posting on GM’s FastLane blog, VP of Research and Development Larry Burns wrote that the company was again exploring offering a natural gas vehicle solution in the US, initially in the form of a dual-fuel combustion engine approach, with future applications of natural gas to produce electricity for E-Flex models (Volt and future variants) and longer-term use as a hydrogen feedstock at filling stations or at people’s homes.

GM already has extensive experience with natural gas vehicles. Our Opel Zafira CNG is among the leaders in Europe, where gasoline and diesel fuel are costly, and we are exploring a dual-fuel approach with natural gas and gasoline for US customers. While we are not ready to commit to a future production plan, we are taking a serious look at natural gas in the US as yet another way to diversify our portfolio of affordable and sustainable transportation energy solutions.

From our experience with ethanol in Brazil and the US, we believe that dual-fuel vehicles provide the kind of flexibility that gives consumers the confidence to purchase them. Just as owners of our flex-fuel ethanol/gasoline vehicles have two fuel choices, purchasers of natural gas/gasoline vehicles could also buy either fuel.

—Larry Burns


John Taylor

It is nice to see that some progression is made to a less obnoxious fuel.

Hopefully, the real change will be to get off of fossil fuels altogether.


My question is will cities that have gaseous fuel bans allow them now with their tunnels, or do they do so they already.

If so a Gaseous version of a Ford Escape which is already proving itself to be a good taxi in NY would be a win-win IMHO.

GM taking the AM platform ( Hummer I presume ) and leveraging it may make sense. Using a Tahoe Hybrid or Volt Drivetrain with the Gaseous Fuels might make for a better package, if only GM had the resources.

A Volt on Gaseous fuels will have us off the refinery bottleneck since it can be refilled at home. Only if they start letting us Drill for more Gas.

Volts on Gaseous Fuels and we can tell many dictitorial oil producing states we do not need your fuel anymore. Let us get independent 1st, before exploring green options. They are still to pie-in-the-sky. Trust me on this, this is coming from those that are trying to integrate it and have to deal with their current shortcomings.


This proposed taxi design sounds rather primitive:
"front-engine, rear-wheel drive architecture which includes a body-on-frame structure."
Could the prototype look any uglier?
Plus a large 4.3 litre engine with no mention of hybrid, not even BAS.
Taxi cabs in London manage to move passengers around the city with just 4 cylinders and in many towns taxi firms are switching to Prius or Escape hybrids.

An earlier post mentions rather disappointing fuel consumption of an LPG GM V6 for the Australian market - just 15 mpg.

"Holden’s dual-fuel Alloytec V-6 engine is available on VE Omega, Berlina and 60th Anniversary sedan models, and the VE Omega ute. Holden’s LPG-powered sedans produce peak power of 175 kW (235 hp) @ 6000 rpm (gasoline 180 kW @ 6000 rpm) and peak torque is 325 Nm (240 lb-ft) @ 2600 rpm (gasoline 330 Nm @ 2600 rpm).

Dual-fuel Omega and Berlina sedan models running on LPG currently deliver fuel economy of 15.5 liters per 100km (15.2 mpg US) and 15.7 liters (15 mpg US) for Omega ute."


Hope you aren't confusing NG wih LPG, Very different fuels with a much larger difference in engine requirements/ optimization.


No, my intention was to draw attention to the weak point of the large 6 cylinder spark ignition ICE: guzzling fuel in city driving.
As an example, even the new large Holden V6 from GM claims only 15 mpg in city driving (albeit using LPG which does have a lower energy content than gasoline.)

The objective of the ingenious T. Boone Pickens plan is to use our vast wind power resources to displace natural gas power generation. The natural gas can in turn be used to displace imported oil as fuel for trucking, buses and taxis.
Is a heavy, body-on-frame taxi with a large V6 guzzling fuel the best option to help in weaning America off foreign oil?

The EPA fuel consumption ratings indicate that an HEV with a downsized ICE is very successful at reducing fuel consumption in city driving.
Examples of EPA city mpg:
Prius 48 ; Corolla 28
Civic IMA 40 ; Fit 28
Even the Escape 2wd hybrid is listed as 34 mpg city.

While a "standard taxi" may require a larger vehicle, the principle of reducing weight & downsizing the ICE in an HEV seems like a better option for city driving.

Taxi fleet cars are typically driven many hours a day in city traffic, so they are best placed to recoup the extra capital cost of an HEV from lower fuel costs.

As regards CNG, unlike gasoline, LNG or LPG the fuel is stored as a compressed gas rather than a liquid. Hence the CNG tank is much larger than the LPG or gasoline tank. A heavy body-on-frame taxi guzzling fuel at 15 mpg equivalent would need a much larger CNG tank than a light weight CNG HEV taxi achieving 34 plus mpg.


Does anyone know about the price for installation of a cng tank in your vehicle? it needs about 200 bar, i' ve heard, so it must be expensive. comparison: LPG (propane and butane) needs only 10 bar i think, but even that costs 2000 to 3000 dollars for the tank, without installation; if anyone would invent a catalyst to make butane from methane(NG) , that would be a real help..

Henry Gibson

This vehicle should at least be a hydraulic hybrid so that a smaller more efficient engine can be used.

Methane, the main part of compressed natural gas, can be made from many wastes including sewage sludge with far less effort and cost than ethanol can be made from corn, but this is no excuse to use inefficient drive systems with too large of engines.

City traffic does not require more than an average of 10 horsepower. See Parry People Movers and their soon to be operational flywheel hydraulic hybrid, low power, rail vehicles.

Pickens has slipped greatly by supporting a non-hybrid. It is cheaper to reduce energy loss with hybrids than it is to build windmills. Why is this not a plug in hybrid or at least a start stop hybrid with integrated starter alternator. ..HG..


An EPA approved kit installed can cost $8k-$10k for converting an SUV. The 3000 psi tank costs $2k-$3k just by itself. Then you have the compressor to refuel in the garage, if you do not have local services.

Which brings up the question of why they do not just convert a hybrid Escape. They get more than 30 mpg and taxis put on about 120 miles per day, so the range would not be an issue. As long as you have room for luggage and passengers, you are all set.

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