April 23, 2012

Fuel Efficiency: Getting Anxious About Range Anxiety in Light-Duty

We previously blogged about the issue of Range Anxiety in heavy-duty trucking applications, and the reality of range limitations. Expanding on that post, we want to address light-duty applications, particularly in fleet passenger vehicles.

In our initial Range Anxiety post, we mentioned that range is the distance a vehicle can travel before refueling, when it’s carrying a full load of fuel under average conditions. Range anxiety is the fear that a vehicle has insufficient range to reach its destination and would leave the vehicle’s occupants stranded.

Anxiety levels are likely to vary based CNG station density: some parts of North America have very limited CNG availability, so anxiety is understandable. Pakistan, on the other hand, with 61% of the vehicle population running on CNG with bi-fuel capability (IANGV link), must have high CNG station density, and so, less range anxiety issues.

Bi-fuel vehicles such as the Westport powered Volvo V70 (link) and  Ford F-250/F350 (link) have  greatly reduced or eliminated range anxiety, because they can switch to gasoline if the vehicle runs out of CNG. Alan Welch, Westport LD Senior Director, Advanced Technology and Engineering, explains that for bi-fuel vehicles many people find that a CNG range of 250 to 500 km is enough. “Historically, about 70 percent of CNG passenger vehicle sales by Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in North America were bi-fuel, the remainder being monofuel,”  Alan says.

The Volvo V70, for example, has a minimum range of 250km in city driving, and up to 300km to350km when driving in less congested areas such as highways. The Ford F-250/F-350 powered by the Westport WiNG™ Power System is also bi-fuel, and while the exact range depends on tank size, it’s expected to get between 300km-500km depending on tank size, route or driving patterns (for instance, city driving versus highway driving), and driver behaviour (studies by the DoE show that aggressive drivers easily consume 33 percent more fuel).

Just like heavy-duty and long haul trucking applications, range is greatly affected by factors like weather, terrain, speed, driver habits and load. While these range limitations are controlled by efficient route planning in the heavy-duty applications, the use of bi-fuel vehicles and the ability to switch from CNG to gasoline should reduce the range anxiety in drivers of light-duty vehicles.  

Additional resources/data: 

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