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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Alternative Fuel Vehicles: The Case of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Vehicles in California Households


Compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles have been used internationally by fleets and households for decades. The use of CNG vehicles results in less petroleum consumption, and fewer air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions in most applications. In the United States, the adoption of CNG technology has been slowed by the availability of affordable gasoline and diesel fuel. This study addresses the potential market for CNG vehicles at the consumer level in California. Based on semi-structured personal interviews, this study reveals the nature of the CNG vehicle ownership experience, determines the effects of government incentives on the decision to own a CNG vehicle, and considers the California CNG refueling network in the context of future alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs), such as fuel cell vehicles. The effects of government financial incentives, such as tax deductions and buy-down rebates were not influential in the decision to purchase a CNG vehicle. Rather, recent owners of dedicated CNG vehicles in California purchased a CNG vehicle because they can drive in the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes regardless of the number of occupants in the vehicle. This significantly reduces their commute time to and from work, improves commute time reliability, and relieves stress. However, CNG vehicle owners have expressed significant dissatisfaction with the CNG refueling network and the driving range of CNG vehicles. Despite these disadvantages, most California CNG vehicle owners would own another CNG vehicle in the future given the same circumstances.

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