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Methanol vs. Natural Gas Vehicles: A Comparison of Resource Supply, Performance, Emissions, Fuel Storage, Safety, Costs, and Transitions

UCD-ITS-RP-88-11

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Suggested Citation:
DeLuchi, Mark A., Robert A. Johnston, Daniel Sperling (1988) Methanol vs. Natural Gas Vehicles: A Comparison of Resource Supply, Performance, Emissions, Fuel Storage, Safety, Costs, and Transitions. Society of Automotive Engineers Technical Paper Series (881656)

This paper is a comprehensive comparative analysis of methanol, compressed natural gas, and liquefied natural gas as automotive fuels. First, we examine natural gas, coal, and biomass feedstocks, and the "security" of foreign feedstocks. Next, vehicle performance and emissions are considered, followed by an analysis of vehicle refuelling and storage technology. Environmental impacts of fuel production and distribution are analyzed; followed by a review of health, flammability, transport, and end-use hazards. We perform a detailed cost analysis that combines fuel cost and vehicle cost into discounted life-cycle cost-per-mile. Finally, we discuss the feasibility and implications of transitions to methanol and natural gas from our current vehicular fuel system. We find that natural gas vehicles may offer slight economic and environmental advantages, but that a transition to natural gas fuel would be more difficult, at least in the U.S. Neither fuel is a suitable long-term replacement for petroleum.