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A Natural Gas Vehicle (NGV) is a vehicle which runs on natural gas, a fuel which burns much more cleanly than gasoline. Because many countries are seeking alternatives to gasoline as a fuel source, the use of NGVs is growing around the world, as the cars are energy efficient and very clean burning. Consumers in some countries can purchase NGVs, and existing cars can also be converted to use natural gas. In addition, many companies offer fleet vehicles which run on natural gas, allowing cities to convert their cars, buses, and trucks to natural gas.
Natural gas is a gaseous combination of hydrocarbons, typically heavy on methane. Technically, natural gas is a fossil fuel, and it is considered a nonrenewable resource as a result. However, natural gas is fairly abundant and is generally cheaper than gasoline. In addition, it burns much more cleanly than gasoline, making it a better choice for vehicle fueling since it can dramatically reduce emissions. In some cases, an NGV can run on biofuel, a renewable form of natural gas made from biological material such as manure.
The design of a NGV is much like that of a conventional gasoline vehicle. The engine works in the same way, with explosions of gas firing cylinders. Instead of a singe gas tank, the NGV has several heavily secured tanks designed to hold compressed natural gas. In some cases, a NGV is equipped to take liquefied natural gas, which is cooled so that it becomes a liquid, allowing the car to store more energy. NGVs drive, look, and feel like ordinary cars.
Fueling the NGV is somewhat more complicated than fueling a conventional car. Drivers need to find a natural gas fueling station, or they can use a home fueling system which taps into household natural gas. Typically, a home fueling system can take hours to fill, since the gas needs to be pressurized before it enters the car. Manufacturers of NGVs hope that consumer demand will increase the number of available fueling stations, which is important, since the cars have a shorter range than their gasoline consuming counterparts do.
Although the NGV is not a complete solution to reliance on fossil fuels, the vehicles were hailed as a step in the right direction when they began to be more widely produced in the late 1990s. In many cities around the world, NGV buses, taxis, and public works vehicles can be readily seen on the streets.