I have to give credit to Audi for thinking ahead in regard to where the automotive industry is headed. Not only is Audi thinking about the ideal transition to hydrogen but the interim step of natural gas vehicles as well.
And that is why in Germany Audi is the first car manufacturer in the world to start building a plant that will create both hydrogen and synthetic natural gas. The hydrogen will be created first using solar energy and water.
The synthetic natural gas will be created by combining this hydrogen with waste CO2 from a nearby plant. Now, the beauty of this concept is that the Audi plant will be able to sell gas to refuel hydrogen cars or natural gas vehicles as needed.
And, selling to natural gas vehicles will be the first step in the process before transitioning over to hydrogen cars.
According to MSN Autos, “Audi says it can produce more than 1,100 tons of synthetic natural gas and consume nearly 3,100 tons of carbon dioxide each year. That would be enough to power 1,500 new Audis running on compressed natural gas for 9,320 miles year. The A3 TCNG, Audi’s first natural gas-powered car, will go on sale in Europe in late 2013. A natural gas trim of the next-generation A4 will bow in 2015.”
And when the tipping point hits where hydrogen cars overtake NGVs in regards to demand it will be no problem for this plant selling hydrogen over synthetic natural gas (e-gas) since they will already be setup to do this very thing.
Of course there is another point to be made as well. Back in July 2008 I talked about the possibility of hydrogen and compressed natural gas both being used in separate tanks in the same flex-fuel vehicles. So these choices would give drivers even more flexibility on where to refuel and for the lowest costs possible for alt fuel vehicles.
And yet another option is that some cars in India (and other places) have been experimenting with blending H2 and CNG in the same tank in the same vehicles and the results are promising.
Anyway, the combination of natural gas and hydrogen, both separate and together open up a lot of possibilities for future cars and future fueling stations. And, this gives us lots to think about.