WASHINGTON-A new consortium to develop affordable natural gas vehicle technology will also simplify the technology for such vehicles for motorists and auto repairers alike, the U.S. auto industry hopes. The Natural Gas Vehicle Technologies Partnership was announced earlier this summer during a press conference June 28. It is the 14th auto technology consortium to be formed under the auspices of the United States Council for Automobile Research, a coalition made up of General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp.
The goals of the NGVTP, according to Chrysler engineer Dick Geiss, are as follows:
To improve the safety and durability of natural gas tanks by 1995;
To reduce the cost of the tanks 50 percent by 1998; and
To increase the driving range of natural gas vehicles.
``There are a couple of technical challenges with natural gas vehicles that need to be overcome,'' Mr. Geiss said. ``The most probable way to overcome them is to join forces.''
Natural gas vehicles could have a big impact on the auto aftermarket, according to Beth Ardisana, an alternative fuel planning specialist with Ford.
``They won't have a lot of effect on manufacturers of rubber auto parts such as belts and hoses, because the design doesn't change that kind of stuff,'' Ms. Ardisana said. ``But repair facilities have to face working with new components in new configurations, because of the tanks. We need to make sure we don't create a rocket ship when there are no astronauts to repair it.''
Currently, natural gas vehicle owners must drain and inspect the tanks periodically, according to Ms. Ardisana. The NGVTP, however, hopes to perfect the tank technology so inspections are no longer necessary.
``This is one more complexity for a repair industry that's getting more and more complex,'' she said.
``But as we develop new technologies, we want to make it simple for the motorist, the repairer and the fleet owner alike.''