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  • Bi-fuel car for camping trips?

    Hi all

    I'm a happy owner of a 2001 Cavalier, bi-fuel. Got it more than a year ago, though my mechanic was laughing at my choice at the time. I find the car great for day to day driving, however, we like to go on camping trips and it just can't make it on the bumpy, forest roads and such, not to mention its limited storage space - namely back seat, since trunk is almost entirely devoted to the gas tank. We can't take anyone else with us on a trip in this car...

    I've been looking through the NGV cars document (http://www.ngvamerica.org/pdfs/marke...ses.NGVs-a.pdf), checking each model on http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/findacar.htm to see what it is and what its fuel economy is and can't find any small SUV or some such car that would be a bi-fuel (or dedicated CNG) and have a decent fuel economy, e.g. highway above 25mpg. I really don't need a huge truck with laughable 11mpg. I'm not familiar with all the different makes and models, hence my question to the community here: is there any CNG or bi-fuel car on the market, similar to e.g. Ford Escape, that would be legal to drive in California? What are others on this forum using for similar purposes?

    Sorry for such a basic question, I just can't find what I'm looking for. Hope it exists... or will appear on the market with the new EPA conversion rules from March this year (http://www.epa.gov/otaq/consumer/fue.../420f11006.htm). Am I being overly optimistic?

    Btw, is there such a thing like a CNG hybrid in the works?

    Thanks
    Lidia

  • #2
    Re: Bi-fuel car for camping trips?

    Basically you will be looking at the GMC type of SUV's (Avalanche, Yukon, Suburban, Tahoe) which have fuel economies of 21 MPG highway. The Expedition gets about 20 MPG...all estimates from fueleconomy.gov. My 2009 Silverado 1500 gets about 20 MPG highway. If you do not need all of the indoor space in an SUV, the best bet would be a truck with the 24gge tank (which will get a good range between 350-400 miles on CNG...so will compensate for the lesser mpg by the savings from CNG).

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    • #3
      Re: Bi-fuel car for camping trips?

      Thanks for responding! It is good to know that one can get 350 - 400 miles with Silverado and 24gge tank. However, I was hoping for a smaller car... The SUVs you mention are really big (I have been in a Suburban once and it was incredible - you could almost dance inside...). I was hoping that with a smaller SUV, I could get better mileage but still have some clearance. From fueleconomy.gov, the SUVs you mention get only 13/18 mpg. When I look at the SUV category at http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/byclass.htm it starts with EVs that have crazy mpg (87/69???! wow). But there are quite a few regular gasoline SUVs that get 20/26mpg. Are none of them available with CNG? When I see only 13mpg for a CNG truck I feel like banging my head on the wall... I'll end up paying the same or more on a trip for gas as people pay for gasoline.

      Just curious, would anybody know if there are any new conversions in the pipeline due to the new EPA conversion rules?

      Thanks
      Lidia

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Bi-fuel car for camping trips?

        Lidia,

        Better mileage and smaller would be like the FORD Transit Connect, in the XLT Premium Wagon.
        It would have to be ordered with the CNG Engine Prep Package and it then has to go to a FORD authorized
        upfitter to install the tank(s) and electrical components, etc. for the CNG operation.
        These can be done in either full CNG or Bi-Fuel conversions.
        Look it up on the Ford web site, and then find a dealer that handles that.
        4 cylinder engine, lots of room inside, 5 passenger.
        '13 Chev Silverado 2500 Ext Cab Factory Bi-Fuel
        '08 Green Tea Metallic GX
        FMQ-2-36 Fueler

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Bi-fuel car for camping trips?

          Good point...forgot about the Transit and my neighbor drives one for work (though not CNG). Personally though, I am not too fond of the looks of the transit, and would only potentially drive one if it was covered in advertisements touting that it was a CNG vehicle.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Bi-fuel car for camping trips?

            That is a funny looking car... But the real issue is that it would have to be new, right? I don't see an older model than 2010, on fueleconomy.gov, and checking on google looks like it's way out of my budget. Could I take a 2001 Ford Escape (http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/compx...Field=Findacar) and do a CNG conversion on it? And for those who can afford it, could one take a Ford Escape hybrid (http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/compx...Field=Findacar), with 34/31mpg, and convert it to CNG bi-fuel? That would be soooo sweet...

            Lidia

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Bi-fuel car for camping trips?

              Since you stated that you wanted something that would be legal to drive in California, I was limiting the options to something new to do a conversion on. The conversion of an older vehicle, while there are some new rules that have come out, seems to be shaky at best (at least from a legal standpoint with the kits that are out there). If you are looking at an older vehicle, it would probably be best to find something already converted with a proven CNG kit with good documentation.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Bi-fuel car for camping trips?

                imho, you are using a faulty model as a decision generator. You should discard everything you have learned about mpg. The only measurement that makes any sense when comparing two different fuels is dollars per mile or something similar. fwiw, I currently drive a Ford F150/7700 as cheap or cheaper than my wife's Honda Accord. The calcs go something like this: $1.25 gge/ 18mpg = .144/mile vs $3.50/ 25mpg = .14/mile. I can do a whole lot more with the full size, roomy, pickup, ie, haul loads, tow a trailer, or commute, whatever the car does; while cng is cleaner burning, the engine is more durable and cheaper to maintain in the longrun, not that the Honda isn't an excellent automobile, but it's still a cramped compact with uninspiring 4-cyl performance.

                Im currently taking the big v-8 engine/cng system out of my high mileage, but free (because of tax rebates), daily-driver utilitarian surplus work truck (w/Triton 5.4) and installing it into a very cheap, but nice, eddie bower expedition (had the same 5.4l blown motor). Best of both worlds.
                Last edited by rtry9a; 11-11-2011, 09:15 AM.

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                • #9
                  Re: Bi-fuel car for camping trips?

                  Looking at dpm (dollar per mile) instead of mpg is interesting, but I have some issues with it. First off, I don't think your calculations are correct. $1.25 gge/ 18mpg = $0.07 per mile - that's great! However, checking on fueleconomy.gov I only see for Ford 150 11/15mpg, with average 13. Thus if that was the case, then $1.25 gge/ 13mpg = $0.10 - still very good. The issue is that CNG prices around here (SF Bay Area) are much higher, currently around $2.36. Hence for me it would be $2.36 gge/ 13mpg = $0.18. On top of it, the CNG prices have only been climbing, since I started driving my bi-fuel 2 years ago. If that trend continues, I would not be a happy Ford F150 owner even a year from now...

                  I do not need a big truck. I was hoping there would be a smaller SUV bi-fuel, with a reasonable mileage (let's lower it to 20mpg). However, since nobody is suggesting any such model, I'll assume they do not exist factory made and conversions are illegal. That's sad. Anyhow, thank you very much for all the information.

                  Lidia

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Bi-fuel car for camping trips?

                    Also need to consider Other Options when you're trying to get most out of your 2001 Cavalier for a "camping" vehicle like:
                    a) add a hitch to back and pull along a lightweight aluminum mini camper
                    b) add a cargo rack to that hitch you just added, and bring along a tent and cooler just behind the car
                    c) add a roof rack with lightweight storage container like Sears sells

                    Like the Utah guy rty9a says, the REAL benefit of cng is Cost Per Mile. With commodity price of NG at around $3.80 per Mcf, a realistic yet profitable street price for public cng SHOULD be around $1.25 or $1.40 tops!! What is happening in CA, NY, TX, CO, NM, AZ, etc where there are monopoly providers of cng is just plain overcharging. KS has public cng at $1.19 per gge and OK is $0.78 per gge statewide at ONG locations and between $1.07 to $1.39 at other public OK cng refueling sites. WI has public cng ranging from $1.06 to $1.47/gge. Birmingham, AL has public cng for $1.37/gge. There is NO REASON (other than greed) that public cng is so high in above mentioned monopoly states. Yet even with CA price of $2.36/gge the 2001 bi-fuel Cav equates to 8 cents to 9.5 cents per mile while on cng, if getting 25 to 30 mpg. In OK your Cav would be ONLY be about 3 cents a mile, or in KS would be 4.5 cents to 5 cents a mile!!! With estimated petrol price in CA of $3.50, that equates to 12 to 14 cents a mile (which is 50% more than cng cost per mile).

                    Be thankful you've learned the great benefits of cng and get the most out of 2001 Cavalier bi-fuel. Educate everyone you can of the terrific benefits of cng. You have to realize you're driving just one of 112,000 TOTAL cng vehicles in the USA - - - see stats at: http://www.iangv.org/tools-resources/statistics.html

                    Drive the wheels off of it while you're on lookout for bargain 2003 or 2004 bi-fuel Cavalier which are currently the most reliable bi-fuels available IMHO. Ultimately, you could get a used Fuelmaker C3 or FM4 or FMQ2-36 and have your own home refueling for under $1 per gge.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Bi-fuel car for camping trips?

                      Just for the record, I am taking my Cavalier on trips already and the biggest issue is not size but clearance (although it would be ideal to improve both). That's why I was looking for something like Ford Escape in CNG family. I get it, that it does not exist. And that's sad.

                      I am not thankful that such a small fraction of Americans are privileged to drive a CNG car (or even know about them) and that choices are so poor, and fuelling stations so few and far apart. I think that's ridiculous. In fact it makes me angry. CNG and LPG should be much more common here, as they are in the rest of the world. I think we are being screwed. Not to mention all the emissions going into the atmosphere, that could be reduced if CNG cars were really made available to the larger public by offering many more make/model choices and having more fuelling stations. And USA is now exporting natural gas...!

                      I mention my CNG to anyone who will listen. Sadly, people take it as a curious novelty, nothing more. What's needed is a much broader adoption, but without more choices of cars and more fuelling stations, it's unlikely to happen. With the choices we have, I may have to start looking for alternatives to both gasoline and CNG for myself... After all in CA I have to find a vehicle that has both EPA and CARB certifications.

                      Lidia

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Bi-fuel car for camping trips?

                        Originally posted by oxjeremy View Post
                        Since you stated that you wanted something that would be legal to drive in California, I was limiting the options to something new to do a conversion on. The conversion of an older vehicle, while there are some new rules that have come out, seems to be shaky at best (at least from a legal standpoint with the kits that are out there). If you are looking at an older vehicle, it would probably be best to find something already converted with a proven CNG kit with good documentation.
                        I assume that I can only purchase an already converted vehicle that has the CARB certification, to drive it legally in CA, is that right? Hence, if it's not on the list at http://www.ngvamerica.org/pdfs/marke...ses.NGVs-a.pdf, with a CARB certification clearly noted, I can't buy it, right?

                        I finally found Power Search on the fuel economy web site and see that there is a Toyota Camry CNG, with combined 22mpg, however there is no Toyota is listed at http://www.ngvamerica.org/pdfs/marke...ses.NGVs-a.pdf. I am guessing that it is legal in California nevertheless. Could someone please confirm?

                        Thanks much
                        Lidia

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Bi-fuel car for camping trips?

                          Originally posted by lidiam View Post
                          Looking at dpm (dollar per mile) instead of mpg is interesting, but I have some issues with it. First off, I don't think your calculations are correct. $1.25 gge/ 18mpg = $0.07 per mile - that's great! However, checking on fueleconomy.gov I only see for Ford 150 11/15mpg, with average 13. Thus if that was the case, then $1.25 gge/ 13mpg = $0.10 - still very good. The issue is that CNG prices around here (SF Bay Area) are much higher, currently around $2.36. Hence for me it would be $2.36 gge/ 13mpg = $0.18. On top of it, the CNG prices have only been climbing, since I started driving my bi-fuel 2 years ago. If that trend continues, I would not be a happy Ford F150 owner even a year from now...

                          I do not need a big truck. I was hoping there would be a smaller SUV bi-fuel, with a reasonable mileage (let's lower it to 20mpg). However, since nobody is suggesting any such model, I'll assume they do not exist factory made and conversions are illegal. That's sad. Anyhow, thank you very much for all the information.

                          Lidia
                          I did flub the calc, .07/mi is correct. I routinely get between 15 and 20mpg with both of my two pickups, depending on season and how much towing/city driving I do. 17-18mpg is my all-around average, based on pump totals and speedometer mileage; I dont ever recall getting worse than 15 with a tankfull. Sorry you are stuck in SOCAL and prisoner of the Clean Energy monopoly.

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