CNG automobile conversion taught here

April 20, 2012 Latest Print Print
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12_04_20_+++Apr.20 Pg.6-CNGChris James/Pioneer
Richard Steere, professor of automotive technology, works with the instructional model of a wiring harness for a compressed natural gas conversion of gasoline engines on April 6. Students in the class have the opportunity to work with IMPCO conversion parts.

Cars and trucks can burn compressed natural gas instead of gasoline, but it takes some know-how to make the conversion, said Richard Steere, head of the Transportation Technology Department at OCCC.  The result is vehicles that run longer, cheaper and cleaner.

OCCC is the only college in the nation to provide manufacturing training for IMPCO manufacturing, he said.

Based out of Santa Ana, Calif., the company makes the kits that automotive students use to convert cars and trucks to CNG, Steere said.

Automotive Professor Brad Walker said he teaches classes for students so that they can retrofit gasoline vehicles with CNG, using IMPCO technology.

Walker said once they’ve completed the training course, students can become state certified to perform the conversion.

Since the pressure of compressed natural gas is about 3600 pounds per square inch, it is very important that the cars are converted right, Steere said. That is why it is important for mechanics to know what they are doing.

Steere said OCCC also is the only college in the nation to teach the course for technicians to become IMPCO certified. So far, OCCC has trained 190 technicians from around the country and even Canada.

According to the course packet students receive during this program, compressed natural gas, also known as CNG, “is an environmentally clean, plentiful, low-cost, domestically produced fuel for motor vehicles.”

Many fleet services are converting their fleets to CNG and companies are beginning to look into the options of converting their vehicles to CNG, Steere said.

General Motors wanted to help OCCC in its training and donated a new Suburban to be converted to CNG, Walker said.

Steere explained the environmental benefits of compressed natural gas.

“CNG is 90 percent methane and not as much carbon as gasoline, so it is cleaner for the environment. Everything that decomposes turns to methane.”

If most motor vehicles ran on natural gas, Steere said, the U.S. would no longer have to buy imported oil and instead could use the abundance of domestic natural gas.

Since the conversion to a CNG vehicle can be expensive, not every person wants to convert their car. It costs about $8000 to $12,000 to convert a vehicle to CNG, Steere said.

Steere has converted his 1959 Ford truck to CNG and says he fills it up for about $1.99 per gallon equivalent or GGE.

Walker said CNG is sold by the GGE, which is the amount of natural gas needed to create the same energy as a gallon of gasoline.

Steere’s vehicle has a switch which will allow him to instantaneously switch between CNG and regular gasoline, Walker said. He said modern vehicles do not  have this option. The vehicles computer will decide when to switch; however the  CNG option can be turned off completely.

When Steere needs to make long trips, he said he simply drives his truck on the compressed natural gas until it runs out. If no CNG refueling station is available, he fills up with regular gasoline and continues on his journey.

To fill up on CNG one simply must go to a gas station that sells CNG, Walker said.

He said Google will find local stations if CNG is typed into the search.

Walker said CNG stations are found primarily in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro but he said they are becoming more plentiful.

“There are currently about 50 stations in the state,” Walker said.

He said by 2015 there should be a CNG fill-up station every 100 miles on the highways so these vehicles can make long trips solely on natural gas.

To contact Alise Squiric, email onlineeditor@occc.edu.

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