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Ohio Lacks Refueling Stations For Natural Gas Vehicles

A major auto manufacturer recently announced it will boost production of passenger cars that run on compressed natural gas rather than gasoline. While so-called C-N-G cars and trucks pollute less, there are few places  to re-fuel such vehicles. In Central Ohio only two locations, one in Columbus on Alum Creek Drive, and another in Newark,  offer compressed natural gas for cars and trucks. Businessman, Clayton King of Royalty Enterprises in Warsaw, Ohio operates both sites. "You know,  nobody wants to build a station until you have cars to build to fuel. But nobody wants to buy any cars to fuel until you have stations to get fuel." So, King was encouraged when Honda announced earlier this month that it would boost its production of cars that run on natural gas. Honda says it will make at least 2,000 such vehicles at its Indiana plant for the 2012 model year. But, with so few refilling stations, Honda spokeswoman, Anita Sipes, says some customers might balk. "You know customers have to really plan out their trips with the natural gas vehicle just so they know from point A to point B what the distance is and when the next re-fueling station is." Sipes says. "So that's something consumers still need to keep in mind when they're purchasing these vehicles." Honda has been making a limited number of natural gas fueled cars since the late 1990s. Albert Iosue, drives one of the Honda's for his employer, the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio.  He says the lack of re-fueling stations would   make him think twice about purchasing such a car for personal use. "If you just stay around the city all the time and there's fueling locations through-out the city that's a great way to use the vehicle." Iosue says. "But if I were traveling to Pittsburgh or to Detroit, trying to plan where to fuel up along the way is extremely difficult." Iosue says his company car has a range of about 175 miles to each tankful of fuel. Most gasoline powered cars can run 300 or more miles on a full tank of fuel. The vehicles' lack of range was cited by a Columbia Gas Company official as the reason the company eliminated natural gas cars from its fleet. At one time, Columbia Gas had 136 company vehicles that ran on natural gas. The Franklin County Sheriff's office recently replaced two C-N-G cars with gasoline engine models. But, Honda's announcement that it will double its production of natural gas- powered vehicles comes at a time when new sources of the cleaner fuel are being recovered. The company is trying to anticipate future demand. Clayton King says wells being drilled now in deep shale formations in Ohio and some surrounding states will bring plentiful supplies. "We're now looking at almost a glut of natural gas in North America which will help keep the price low and stable which will make it a lot more attractive for everybody to go that way." King says compressed natural gas is measured in a unit he calls "gasoline-gallon equivalent" so when a natural gas vehicle owner fills his or her fuel tank they can easily compare the price to the price of gasoline. "We're at a $1.79 gasoline-gallon equivalent. So compared to $3.50 or whatever for gasoline." King's company and another firm, Quasar Energy Group of Wooster plan more natural gas filling stations in Ohio. King adds that natural gas home refilling units are also available that would allow C-N-G vehicle owners to re-fuel overnight. But, the upfront costs are substantial. "Well, you're probably looking at about a $6,000 investment at the home." Tom Borgerding WOSU News