KCBS Cover Story: Commuters Embracing Compressed Gas Vehicles

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A van powered by compressed natural gas(CNG) on display January 27, 2011 at the 2011 Washington Auto Show at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

A van powered by compressed natural gas(CNG) on display January 27, 2011 at the 2011 Washington Auto Show at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

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(CBS SF/AP) – Fill-ups have soared above $4 a gallon in some states, including California, and could top $5 by summer. In the Bay Area, those sky high gas prices are reason enough for some commuters to consider alternative modes of transportation. Among the options are Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles.

Relieving pain at the pump may be one reason to give some thought to a CNG car – but there are other benefits, too.

“The primary motivation for us was to do our part to reduce carbon-based emissions and help California have cleaner air,” explained Naomi Preston, who along with her husband, Ken, drives a Honda Civic GS. Their car runs on compressed natural gas.

KCBS’ Margie Shafer Reports:

For Ken, it came down to congestion relief.

“It’s considered an ultra-low emissions vehicle and that’s why we qualified for the carpool stickers and these look like the yellow ones you saw on the Prius, which expired last summer except they’re white and they’re still currently available,” he said.

The Prestons own Acclaim Appliances in Foster City, and are constantly in the car, making service calls all over the region.

Research suggests that the environment – and not congestion relief – drive many people to CNG vehicles.

“In India, actually in Delhi, all of the auto rickshaws and small taxis are CNG vehicles by law,” pointed out Severin Borenstein, co-director of The Energy Institute at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. “They have not done that as an energy policy, they’ve done it as an air quality policy.”

Still, Borenstein notes that, while there is less smog and fewer particulates discharged from CNG vehicles, they do still leave a greenhouse gas footprint. But, a fill-up at the pump is cheaper – divers currently pay just over $2 per gallon for CNG. That’s if you can find a CNG filling station – sometimes, it’s tough to find one.

“CNG vehicles are likely to save you money, certainly over the next five years or so. And if you count the additional cost of a CNG vehicle, it’s still probably going to save you money,” Borenstein reasoned. “But there is a hassle factor.”

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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