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Hello from Chicago (Fuelmaker Economics Discussion)

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  • Hello from Chicago (Fuelmaker Economics Discussion)

    Hello everyone. I'm new to CNG and the boards. Have been lurking for a while & finally signed up for an account.

    Wound up looking for a new "used" vehicle for a while. Perhaps because of the whole pandemic, I took a lot longer looking and ran across a used Civic GX on FB marketplace where I was never quite able to set up a time to see it. But, it stuck in my mind & I called a buddy who owns both a dual-fuel pickup (that he bid on while slightly inebriated one evening) and then bought a GX for the wife. So, I kept looking & eventually wound up buying one myself. There are CNG stations around the area, but will likely eventually buy a home fueling device, assuming I can get one at a price that has a reasonable payback period (taking into account the cost of maintenance/parts/etc.).

    My buddy has a Fuelmaker & it sounds like he has been lucky enough not to have had to spend a lot for replacement parts over the years, but on here I've read that the compressor head really only seems to last a limited number of hours before needing replacement & it appears to be a big ticket part. One Fuelmaker's reps told me he'd have to check, but he thinks around $2015, or so, if his memory serves. I asked him how many hours they typically last for & he guessed 5,000 to 8,000, depending. To me, that means assuming NOTHING else breaks down AND you basically get a used Fuelmaker for free that costs you nothing to install, your cost of production (not including natural gas) or the electricity is roughly $0.25 to $0.50 just for the compressor head. Given other issues, such as boards, the cost of a used Fuelmaker device & the cost of installation (even assuming I install it myself), it makes me wonder if I can even make CNG cheaply enough to justify the front end expense of even a used Fuelmaker (which may need something expensive just around the corner anyway).

  • #2
    Driven from Chicago to Houston and also to Los Angeles. Home fueling is of no consequence for road trips. Link below shows gas prices in the Great Lakes area are generally below the national average. It's common for CNG vehicle owners just to rely on public stations WHICH COST YOU NOTHING TO MAINTAIN.

    Speaking of Los Angeles, a seller on this forum has the car and fueler posted for sale:


    • #3
      . . was making the point that lower fuel costs in your area would not be much of an incentive to use CNG. Here's the gasoline fuel prices link from prior post:


      • #4
        Originally posted by 300mileclub View Post
        . . was making the point that lower fuel costs in your area would not be much of an incentive to use CNG. Here's the gasoline fuel prices link from prior post:
        I agree, it does get rid of the incentive, especially given the cost of a replacement compressor head and how often you apparently have to replace them. Didn't quite realize how expensive the parts were to maintain the home fueling equipment when I started looking at cars. I'll wind up talking to a buddy of mine to get a better picture of how much it has cost him to keep his Fuelmaker working. In the end, it isn't that big of a deal for me as I got a pretty decent vehicle for the price I paid and there is a couple of cng stations pretty close to me & a fair amount in the area. There is always the wife's car for family trips or if I need to go somewhere that is of a concern CNGwise.


        • #5
          Also, my buddy installed his Fuelmaker himself &, if I get one, I should be able to do the same (plus I might even get him to help). I'll be crunching numbers to figure out what I think, roughly, what sort of payback period it would take for the investment (assuming there actually is one).


          • #6
            Welcome to CNGchat ChicagoNWSide.

            Here is my Fuelmaker FMQ-2-36 experience:

            $5140 new from factory in 2007
            $790 head rebuild in 2011 [after 1,477 GGE]
            $622 head rebuild in 2013 [after 960 GGE]
            $925 new control board in 2014 [after 796 GGE]
            $260 replaced some o-rings & time chip in 2020 [after at least 2,000 GGE]

            At the 2013 head rebuild I was told that the new control boards no longer time out the head life, and that I should have a long run with this one - which has proven to be true.

            I also spent $100 last week to have a burnt fuse holder replaced. If you do get an FMQ-2-36 the make sure it has the newer control board, which includes a small replaceable daughter board for the fuse holder. And be sure your ground/common wire is well connected as this was probably the cause for my recent fix.

            When I first installed it, to keep track of the fuel dispensed I installed a cheap gas meter from China, which unfortunately stopped turning sometime in 2015 or so. But I'm certain that over the years I have dispensed at least 5,200 GGE. So I've spent $2,597 in repairs over 13 years - about 50 cents per gallon in maintenance and repair.

            Amortizing in the initial capital cost adds another $1.00 per GGE.

            Our residential gas rates in Utah average $6.50 per DTH over the year, or about 70 cents per GGE. And I once figured cost of compression is 10 cents or so.

            All-in GGE costs:
            $0.80 gas + compression
            $0.50 compressor maintenance
            $1.30 cost of fuel & compressor maintenance

            $2.30 fully amortized cost of CNG at my home

            According to the EIA, $2.80 was the average cost of regular gasoline during this period. So I guess I'm money ahead, but to me it was the convenience of a full tank in the morning that has been a time saver (even if the car / SUV had to be outdoors to fill).

            Installing the unit is simple: just connect three wires to your 240V and a gas line connection. In my prior home the unit would sometimes shut off for lack of inlet gas pressure when the cars were filling (we have two hoses) and both of our furnaces kicked-on. So when we built our next house I made sure to get the optional 2 psi service plumbed in from the utility.

            Hope this helps, and let us know how you get along with your journey.
            John Mitton
            Co-Founder of CNGchat
            Last edited by John Mitton; 01-25-2021, 09:42 AM.


            • #7
              John Mitton
              Co-Founder of CNGchat
              John Mitton Thank you for that information, it is very helpful. Is there any particular way to tell if the control board is new enough to NOT time out the head life even if it happens to NOT be new enough to have the small replaceable daughter board for the fuse holder? The $100 repair on the fuse isn't nearly as concerning as about $1000 for a new board or the timing out on the head life.


              • cnguser
                Senior Member
                cnguser commented
                Editing a comment
                Beware of lead times just to get new parts from BRC in Italy, mainly due to the pandemic.  My fueler konked out (leaking) in Feb 2020, the rep ordered a replacement compressor module, and it took until Dec 2020 to arrive.  Then in attempting to start the compressor we discovered that the control module had also failed.  Might ask your rep if he stocks parts!
                Now $3500 later, I can again fuel both of my bi-fuel more trips to the gasoline station.

            • #8
              I would not recommend home fueling for the novice. I am not a novice, do all my own repairs, and was never able to beat the public station price. I've been in the Kanas City area for around 17 years and the public station I use (KS Gas Service in Overland Park) is $1.29/GGE and at its highest was $1.79. Clean Energy is over $2.00 (have not been there in a while). New FMQ-3600s will run you $7000+ and it will eventually need maintenance. I purchased my units used and was doing my own repairs for years and went from full time home fueling to only fueling from home when the station was down to full dependence on the station. If the station goes down now I go over to the Clean Energy station. As John mentioned, the compressor head will need rebuilt periodically (the older units had a time chip that timed out at 4000 hours but that has been increased significantly for the new units). The issue is somewhere between 2000 to 8000 hours the compressor will increasingly loose performance and you may not get a full fill overnight. By 8000 hours it may not even fill the vehicle fully regardless of how long you have it running. I've had all the common problems with the FMQ-3600:
              1. Compressor head rebuilds anywhere from 2000 - 4000 hours
              2. Motor run cap replacement
              3 Melted fuse holders
              4. Transistor replacement
              5. O-ring replacements
              6. Other

              If there is a reasonable public station close I would get fuel there. I knew a few guys that had their own gas wells and got compressors. The problems they had were even shorter periods between rebuilds (probably not drying/filtering the gas as well as the public utility). For the price of the compressor (new), you could buy around 3500 GGE or more depending on prices in your area and that will give you over 100,000 miles. Just could not make the home fueling work for me financially. If you are in the middle of nowhere with your own gas well - it might work financially for you. Unlike others, my goal is to save money not tout I have natural gas vehicles.

              One other thought - you will most likely need to perform your own vehicle maintenance on the vehicles CNG system unless you know someone that can help. Although the Civic GX is a rather reliable vehicle folks do occasionally need work on the fuel system.

              Best of luck to ya.


              • #9
                Thanks for the info
                Senior Member
                joe_kan. After poking around on here, I started wondering whether it would really save me any $$ and what the payback period (even though it's around $2.50/GGE near me. I figure if I keep my eyes open and stumble across a used one dirt cheap, then it might be worth it.

                WHO do you use for the compressor head rebuilds? How much has it been costing? I'm guessing that is one of those things that isn't really something you can DIY.


                • #10
                  Last time I got a rebuilt head was through TGT (Tulsa Gas Technologies) but I do not believe they handle BRC/Fuelmaker any more. It has been over 8 years since I got a rebuilt compressor - just ran them until they had their next big issue and then put them in storage. I do not know what today's costs are for rebuilt heads but I think I read somewhere that it was around $2000 - could be mistaken here. I think swapping a compressor head is within the capabilities of a DIYer but the rebuild itself is something you need knowledge, experience and parts accessibility- Gasoline is still cheaper than $2.50 (locally gasoline is $2.27 and diesel is $2.50) around here but since Biden has been in office gas/diesel are up and I'm absolutely positive he will screw things up for CNG as well as gas/diesel. Remember the Obama years; I was paying $3.50 to $4.00 for gas so CNG was helping me.. Unfortunately, CNG is not seen as the clean alternative it once was at least not to the pick the winner politicians now calling the shots.


                  • #11
                    California gasoline prices are higher so payback is better here, along with my buying my FMQ2-36 for only $2500. I've long had a 'unlimited hours' chip. But it's the convenience of home fueling that is the real bargain. On top of the CNG savings we also get a special discounted rate on all of the Natural Gas we use.
                    02 GX
                    01 GX
                    03 Crown Vic
                    06 GX
                    Home Fueler


                    • #12
                      freedml - How many hours are you getting from your FMQ2-36 prior to rebuild? It is great that the new compressor heads coming from BRC have a very high hour count prior to time-out now but how many hours are you getting before the compressor performance gets problematic? I had 8 units at one time and there was only one unit that made it to 4000 hours in the bunch (sold everything off except 2 units since). One of the units I sold was to a guy fueling from a utility gas well and I think he only got 2600 hours before he had problems. Maybe the new compressor units are much better than the ones made 15+years ago but my experience was less than 4000 hours before the compressor needed work. John's information above seems to support this as well. I can't speak on other's experience, however, very few people I know got the full 4000 hours before a rebuild was needed. The time chip can be set to unlimited but if the unit is taking over 24 hours to provide 6-7 GGE or never fully fills a vehicle I consider this unacceptable performance.


                      • freedml
                        Senior Member
                        freedml commented
                        Editing a comment
                        I don't keep track but my current head has lasted years and we use it a lot. I think it was a new BRC head.

                      • joe_kan
                        Senior Member
                        joe_kan commented
                        Editing a comment
                        The current BRC/Fuelmaker compressor heads being shipped I heard were new (not rebuild), all of mine were rebuilt Fuelmaker heads. I suspect they did some improvements after they moved things to Italy. TGT said something about this when I last inquired (years ago) on a rebuild but that was when I made the decision to get fuel from the public station exclusively and never had them exchanged.

                        Just to follow up another thing I mentioned:

                        Gasoline in Kansas City, Kansas is around $2.45 now and over on the Missouri side it is around $2.26. On its way up and the Biden administration is doing everything they can to accelerate this. Probably going to be like the Obama years (or worse) for fuel costs. I was going to finally get out of the CNG vehicle gig and have not been purchasing any NGVs but I may need to revisit that decision. Of course the current White House administration may screw the gas industry as well (ex. no new fracking on federal land and shutting down pipeline projects). Can't leave anything working well alone.

                    • #13
                      In (1min 44sec mark) this video may be found a discussion of the (2min 33 sec) 70 percentage fill achievable with "fast fill." "Time fill can achieve 100% fill due to gas temperature not being raised in the long process.

                      Defueling (2min 45sec) is also discussed. The defuel receptacle is now required by code (since 2012 or there-abouts.) A transfer hose capable of connecting the inlets of two vehicles together - and having a valve in the connector hose that can allow the hose to vent pressure after fuel transfer is complete - is the obvious method by which an out-of-fuel vehicle can be fueled out on the road in order to get it back to the time-fill yard. Venting the hose is required so that the nozzles attached to each vehicle can be disconnected.