Kabooming business: Converting cars to natural gas not for amateurs
Salt Lake Tribune - Editorial
September 4, 2008
State and federal tax credits. Cheap fuel. Free parking at meters in Salt Lake City. A ticket to the highoccupancy- vehicle lane, even if you're driving solo.
Plus that warm, smug feeling that comes from knowing that you're polluting less than the other guy.
It's no wonder that more and more Utahns - the nonprofit Utah Clean Cities Coalition, using statistics from fueling stations, estimates 20,000 - are driving vehicles powered by clean-burning compressed natural gas. Considering that it costs a mere 87 cents for enough CNG to equal the energy in a $4 gallon of gasoline, what's surprising is that even more motorists have not made the switch.
Some CNG converts are piloting the Honda Civic GX NGV, the only compressed natural gas production vehicle currently on the market. Others have bought used cars that were either built or professionally converted to use CNG. Still more are taking their gasoline-powered cars to certified mechanics and having them rigged to run exclusively on CNG, or to burn both natural gas and gasoline. Kudos. The environment thanks you. Future generations will thank you. And your wallet thanks you.
But other motorists are taking the engine conversion project, not to mention their lives, into their own hands. And in doing so, they're jeopardizing every motorist on the road.
It's entirely possible that some backyard mechanics possess the skills to buy a high-quality used tank and safely juryrig an engine to burn CNG, or precisely follow the instructions in commercially available conversion kits. But some get it wrong. Experts tell tales of cars outfitted with improperly secured or worn tanks, and fumes leaking into the passenger compartment. It's only a matter of time until an explosion occurs and lives are lost.
Cost is a concern. A professional conversion to an existing vehicle can cost $6,000 or more. But if you can't afford to have it done right, you simply can't afford it. The risk to yourself and others is unacceptable.
While there are no statewide regulations prohibiting home conversions, or providing for natural gas fuel system safety inspections, there should be. To allow some motorists to drive around with what amounts to a time bomb in their trunks is either a gross oversight, or just plain wrong.