The home natural gas connection can power heating, hot water, cooking and even the barbeque, but soon it could feed another ubiquitous item found at home – the car. OES CNG has developed a new compressed natural gas (CNG) refuelling system that can be installed outside domestic garages. Fuel station at home

CNG@HOME works by drawing gas from the domestic natural gas supply and compressing it into the vehicle’s CNG cylinder. It takes approximately three hours to fill a standard passenger car, which will give it a range of 200–250 km.

Safety and simplicity were the key aspects that had to be considered for a domestic refuelling unit. The units will automatically switch off when the tank is full, allowing owners to ‘set and forget’. Safety systems are built into the unit, so all the owner needs to do is provide adequate ventilation and a clear, clean environment with no tree or bush overhang.

Designed for the home with quietness in mind, the motor and compressor are carried on a separate rubber mounted sub-frame, resulting in little or no vibration and less noise. The system should produce no more noise than a normal split system air conditioner, says OES CNG.

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The system is designed to alert the householder to notify the manufacturer when routine or other maintenance is required. In contrast to some overseas home CNG refuelling stations, which need to be returned to the factory for routine servicing, OES CNG has designed the system for onsite servicing.

Mix for the market

The traditional markets for CNG vehicles are urban buses and forklifts, but OES CNG sees a “big future” for urban deliveries, taxis, tradesmen and private commuters. As such, the range to be brought to market includes two domestic models and two commercial units. The domestic units will have a capacity of 6 cubic metres per hour (m¬¬3/h) – equivalent to 6.6 litres of petrol – with one unit to be a standard slow-fill unit and the other to have some internal storage capacity to provide a partial boost (rapid) fill. The light commercial units will have compression capacities of 10 and 13 m¬¬3/h respectively and will both have internal storage capacity.

Drawing gas from the home gas connection, CNG@HOME units fill much slower than CNG refuelling pumps at commercial stations. Commercial stations have a high pressure storage capacity, allowing them to fill vehicles in approximately three minutes.

A combination of commercial and domestic refuelling stations will provide the flexibility required to introduce a new fuel into the market, says OES CNG. Commercial stations require a considerable capital investment, meaning that a large customer base is required for a reasonable return on investment. As such, home refuellers provide the most cost-effective way of building up the initial market for CNG vehicles. In addition, says OES CNG, home refuelling will reinforce the benefits of CNG – having a service station at home means that motorists are protected from the volatile pricing of petrol, diesel and LPG.

Fuelling market development

The company is working to promote development of the CNG vehicle market. On a government level, the company is lobbying the Federal Government to ensure that no policy is introduced that disadvantages CNG. At present, the Government is planning to impose an excise on CNG as a vehicle fuel, at half the rate imposed on diesel and petrol.

At a consumer level, it is developing rental and financing packages that will lower the initial investment required by homeowners wishing to install home refuelling units. On an industry level, it has developed relationships with vehicle manufacturers with the aim of seeing an increased number of CNG-powered vehicles on the market.

“Most original equipment manufacturers have CNG models in their range overseas, and we hope that as we roll out the refuelling infrastructure and the home refuellers, they will begin to add CNG models to their Australian range,” OES CNG says.