The projects that comprise ARPA-E's MOVE Program, short for "Methane Opportunities for Vehicular Energy," are finding cost-effective ways to power passenger cars and other light-duty vehicles with America's abundant natural gas resources. Natural gas is currently less expensive than gasoline, and produces fewer harmful emissions than any other fossil fuel. Despite these advantages, significant technological and infrastructure barriers currently limit the use of natural gas as a major fuel source in the U.S. ARPA-E's MOVE projects are finding innovative ways to break through these barriers, creating practical and affordable natural gas storage tanks for passenger cars and quick-filling at-home refueling stations.
In order to power cars as far as gasoline can, natural gas must be stored at high pressures. Natural gas storage tanks are generally large and thick-walled in order to help withstand these high pressures. These large, cumbersome tanks fit well in buses and trucks, but would take up all of the storage space in a mid-sized car. Streamlined designs and low-cost materials for storage tanks are needed to make natural gas a practical fuel source for passenger cars. In addition to problems with natural gas tanks, there are considerable infrastructure barriers preventing the widespread use of natural gas for passenger cars. There are fewer than 600 natural gas refueling stations across the U.S. today—a mere fraction of the country’s 120,000 gasoline stations. This lack of infrastructure makes people and companies reluctant to shift to natural gas vehicles. In turn, fuel companies are reluctant to build refueling stations given the lack of natural gas vehicles on the road. Providing the 65 million American families and businesses that already have residential natural gas service with an affordable and efficient way to refuel their natural gas vehicles at home could be a practical and cost-effective way to eliminate infrastructure barriers.
If successful, MOVE projects would provide American drivers with an abundant, affordable, and practical domestic fuel source.
Greater use of domestic natural gas resources in the transportation sector would decrease America’s dependence on foreign sources of fuel.
Compared to conventional gasoline and diesel vehicles, natural gas vehicles produce significantly lower amounts of harmful emissions, such as nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and toxic and carcinogenic pollutants as well as carbon dioxide.
Petroleum imports represented nearly 41% of the $646 billion U.S. trade deficit in 2010. Finding ways to utilize domestic sources of energy, such as natural gas, will decrease this deficit and spur economic growth in the U.S.