On July 12, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced 13 new projects to advance natural gas vehicle (NGV) technologies, all in light-duty applications, through its Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E).
Aimed specifically at new developments for natural gas tanks and potential home-fueling, the natural gas industry can only be pleased that Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman has said:
“These projects could transform America’s energy infrastructure and economy by utilizing domestic energy sources to power our vehicles…”While the rationale behind funding many of the early-stage projects is their risk level for private investment, the DOE sees real potential for NGVs in America’s future and is prepared to invest in them.
Clearly demand for NGVs is increasing. And now, not only the DOE, but others are encouraged to tackle the passenger vehicle market.
The projects follow others that ARPA-E, launched by President Barack Obama in 2009, has proven successful by supporting. Many of its projects secured private capital after initial funding from ARPA-E.
Westport Innovations has benefit from DOE support over the years, and the success of its technology in all markets is proof positive that research support can ultimately translate into commercial application. Initially focused on the heavy-duty markets, Westport has expanded in a big way into light-duty, targeting fleets initially, but also the average consumer.
In passenger vehicles alone, Westport LD has acquired global NGV system and component operations in Australia, Italy and Sweden, launched its new Westport WiNG Power System this spring for Ford F-250 and F-350 pickup trucks, and secured a relationship with General Motors to develop two different combustion, controls and emissions approaches to natural gas engines.
The DOE also sponsored early research that helped in the development of many new natural gas resources in the U.S. The NGV technology projects support its efforts to act on President Obama’s call for “the safe, responsible development of the near 100-year supply of U.S. natural gas resources, which has the potential to support more than 600,000 American jobs,” according to the DOE.
Not likely that any NGV enthusiast will argue these are all great steps forward to a more energy independent future. Natural gas for transportation is here today – and here to stay for a good, long while.