What's the Latest Development?
Long known for encouraging the adoption of natural gas-powered vehicles (NGVs) in its export markets, Russia's state-owned energy monopoly Gazprom is now working on convincing more of its own citizens and businesses to make the switch. Many of the approximately 86,000 NGVs currently on Russian roads are conversions, with do-it-yourself kits available for as low as US$1,000. This year, major automaker Russian Machines announced it would make natural gas systems standard on its buses and light utility trucks.
What's the Big Idea?
Russia is second only to the US in the amount of natural gas it produces, and the cost of a gallon is about US$2 less than gasoline. Also, its emissions are much cleaner than those of gasoline and diesel. With abundant domestic supplies, both countries could stand to benefit by encouraging more NGVs. However, the US is much stricter with regards to natural gas systems, and only four factory-made NGVs are currently available for purchase. There's also the question of refueling stations as well as simple safety: Although higher-quality tanks are hardened against crashes, lower-quality tanks can rupture. One Russian owner's wife "fear[s] that the car...will explode on the way to the grocery store."
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