Today CNG run vehicles gain attention in the automobile industry, with cutting-edge technology harnessing the power of this abundantly-available fuel.
But where did the idea of powering a vehicle with natural gas come from? In every successful invention there’s a history of unsuccessful attempts and modest origins, and natural gas-powered vehicles are no different.
The Origins Natural Gas Vehicles
Natural gas-powered vehicles can be traced back to World War I and World War II, when the shortage of petrol was felt worldwide. Developed out of necessity, “Gas Bag Vehicles” began to appear in France, Netherlands, Germany and England.
Automobiles, buses and trucks were powered by “town gas” or “street gas,” a by-product of the process of turning coal into cokes (used to make iron), captured in a balloon that was usually carried on the roof of the vehicle.
While today’s natural gas passenger vehicles are quite practical, with advanced technologies that compress natural gas (CNG) so more fuel can be carried in the tank, the ‘gas bag’ fuel tanks of the past needed to be much larger to house the uncompressed gas.
Because of the visibly exposed gas bag, it was easy to see how much fuel the vehicle had at any given time: the gas bag would be fully inflated at the start of the trip, and it would deflate with every mile that was driven. The gas storage bags themselves were made of silk and other fabrics, which were then soaked in rubber. These bags were much cheaper and easier to build than metal tanks, and could be repaired in a similar way to bicycle tires.
Although it was technically possible to compress town gas or street gas, it wasn’t done. Carbon monoxide, one of the components of town gas and street gas, disintegrates quickly when compressed, while hydrogen gas, another component, leaks away through steel tanks when it is compressed. What could have been a solution to the large bags would’ve inhibited the fuel from working.
France, the only exception, used gas cylinders during World War Two (picture above), allowing for a smaller fuel tank or a better range. Natural gas was used, which could be compressed without the drawbacks of compressing town gas. However, this turned out to be more expensive and more dangerous.
Gas bag buses were still used in China in the 1990s as a cheap public transportation option as natural gas is a relatively cheap substance there.
We’ve come a long way in natural gas transportation technology from these earlier models and FutureINJECT is the way to go now!