GM, Chrysler and Honda to Offer Natural Gas Cars
Written By: John Shimkus
Natural gas is being hailed as the next great thing to take over now that the world is coming to its senses about the dwindling oil supply. With shale gas reserves offering abundant supplies, it seems natural gas will offer a solution—all be it a temporary one—to the electricity generation and transportation sectors. Now, top car manufacturers like Honda and GM are taking natural gas seriously as an alternative to traditional petroleum fuel, and are preparing to launch natural gas powered cars and trucks within the next few years.
Thought electric cars were the next transport fad? Well they certainly will be gaining in popularity, but natural gas cars are far cheaper to produce than lithium-ion powered electric vehicles. For example, the Honda Civic GX CNG will run on compressed natural gas and cost just $25,490 compared to the all-electric Chevy Volt, which will cost $41,000, or the $32,000 Nissan Leaf (both considered the most affordable of commercial electric cars). The Civic GX CNG is due for release next year in all 50 U.S. states.
GM’s lineup of natural gas truck and van models has been on the market since last year. Chrysler is also gearing up for a natural gas push, and with parent company Fiat already manufacturing and selling natural gas vehicles in Europe and South America it should be a fairly simple transition.
Like electric vehicles, natural gas vehicles may soon get some help from the U.S. government. A newly introduced congressional Natural Gas Bill has already gained 154 sponsors and if passed will offer credits for the purchase of natural gas vehicles, similar to what is being done with electric cars currently.
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While electric vehicles will become more ubiquitous, it seems that natural gas will be a top competitor in the coming decade. However, believe it or not, as far as infrastructure is concerned, electric charging stations are more prevalent than compressed natural gas fueling stations. California for example has 448 electric vehicle charging stations, but only 217 natural gas stations. The nice thing about natural gas, like electricity, is that most homes already have it for heating and cooking needs, and home fueling stations are likely to become popular with natural gas vehicle owners.
So what we are likely to see is a massive development of electric infrastructure side-by-side with natural gas infrastructure. This is actually a good thing for various reasons. Electric charging stations rely on grid electricity to operate, and there are several exciting renewable electricity generation methods—such as solar, wind, geothermal, etc.—that will be able to consistently provide electricity as they develop.
With natural gas, however, the supply that can be extracted from the Earth is limited, and you run into the same supply problems as with oil. But there are different methods of collecting biogas—the gas released from biological organisms—that could continue to feed natural gas infrastructure. In Sweden for example, the entrails of commercially butchered livestock are processed and methane collected to power the country’s transportation system. These are the kinds of energy solutions that will get us through the 21st century, and a gas/grid infrastructure combo is an excellent way forward!
Itronics successfully tests manganese recovery process
Itronics - a Nevada-based emerging cleantech materials growth company that manufacturers fertilisers and produces silver - has successfully tested two proprietary processes that recover manganese, with one process recovering manganese, potassium and zinc from paste produced by processing non-rechargeable alkaline batteries. The second recovers manganese via the company’s Rock Kleen Technology.
Manganese, one of the four most important industrial metals and widely used by the steel industry, has been designated by the US Federal Government as a "critical mineral." It is a major component of non-rechargeable alkaline batteries, one of the largest battery categories sold globally.
The use of manganese in EV batteries is increasing as EV battery technology is shifting to use of more nickel and manganese in battery formulations. But according to the US Department of Interior, there is no mine production of manganese in the United States. As such, Itronics is using its Rock Kleen Technology to test metal recoverability from mine tailings obtained from a former silver mine in western Nevada that has a high manganese content.
In a statement, Itronics says that its Rock Kleen process recovers silver, manganese, zinc, copper, lead and nickel. The company says that it has calculated – based on laboratory test results – that if a Rock Kleen tailings process is put into commercial production, the former mine site would become the only primary manganese producer in the United States.
Itronics adds that it has also tested non-rechargeable alkaline battery paste recovered by a large domestic battery recycling company to determine if it could use one of its hydrometallurgical processes to solubilize the manganese, potassium, and zinc contained in the paste. This testing was successful, and Itronics was able to produce material useable in two of its fertilisers, it says.
"We believe that the chemistry of the two recovery processes would lend itself to electrochemical recovery of the manganese, zinc, and other metals. At this time electrochemical recovery has been tested for zinc and copper,” says Dr John Whitney, Itronics president.
“Itronics has been reviewing procedures for electrochemical recovery of manganese and plans to move this technology forward when it is appropriate to do so and has acquired electro-winning equipment needed to do that.
"Because of the two described proprietary technologies, Itronics is positioned to become a domestic manganese producer on a large scale to satisfy domestic demand. The actual manganese products have not yet been defined, except for use in the Company's GOLD'n GRO Multi-Nutrient Fertilisers. However, the Company believes that it will be able to produce chemical manganese products as well as electrochemical products," he adds.
Itronics’ research and development plant is located in Reno, about 40 miles west of the Tesla giga-factory. Its planned cleantech materials campus, which will be located approximately 40 miles south of the Tesla factory, would be the location where the manganese products would be produced.
Panasonic is operating one of the world's largest EV battery factories at the Tesla location. However, Tesla and other companies have announced that EV battery technology is shifting to use of nickel-manganese batteries. Itronics is positioned and located to become a Nevada-0based supplier of manganese products for battery manufacturing as its manganese recovery technologies are advanced, the company states.
A long-term objective for Itronics is to become a leading producer of high purity metals, including the U.S. critical metals manganese and tin, using the Company's breakthrough hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, and electrochemical technologies. ‘Additionally, Itronics is strategically positioned with its portfolio of "Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies" to help solve the recently declared emergency need for domestic production of Critical Minerals from materials located at mine sites,’ the statement continues.
The Company's growth forecast centers upon its 10-year business plan designed to integrate its Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies and to grow annual sales from $2 million in 2019, to $113 million in 2025.