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Clean, Green Driving Machines

The Natural Gas Corporation and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) recently purchased three examples of a new type of car, natural gas vehicles (NGVs), for demonstration, evaluation and promotion.

Unlike retrofitted CNG vehicles, NGV engines have been built specifically to run on compressed natural gas. They look the same as petrol-powered models, with fuel tanks located out of sight under the floor and filled through a nozzle on the car's side, and have equal power, but are claimed to offer lower fuel and maintenance costs.

EECA chief executive, Martin Gummer says that NGVs offer an opportunity to turn around the decline of natural gas as a transport fuel in New Zealand.

"The NGV is undoubtedly a more environmentally friendly form of transport than petrol-driven cars. We expect that it will also show overall cost advantages for high mileage vehicles."

With a range of up to 450 kilometres on a single fill, the three NGVs will be able to be driven anywhere around the North Island.

"Initial tests in Australia indicate running costs of about seven cents per kilometre for the 4.0 litre Falcon engines -- that's a saving of over five cents per kilometre on the same petrol powered model," says Natural Gas Corporation marketing manager Tony Goode.

The test cars are Ford models, and other manufacturers are also developing the type. NGVs are initially aimed at high mileage users because of the cost savings, but environmentally interested companies and drivers may also be interested, because natural gas emits less carbon dioxide than does petrol when used as a transport fuel and contains no benzene or lead.