The Center for Electromechanics at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) is developing an at-home natural gas refueling system that compresses natural gas using a single piston. Typically, at-home refueling stations use reciprocating compressor technology, in which an electric motor rotates a crankshaft tied to several pistons in a multi-stage compressor. These compressor systems can be inefficient and their complex components make them expensive to manufacture, difficult to maintain, and short-lived. The UT Austin design uses a single piston compressor driven by a directly coupled linear motor. This would eliminate many of the moving components associated with typical reciprocating compressors, reducing efficiency losses from friction, increasing reliability and durability, and decreasing manufacturing and maintenance costs.
If successful, UT Austin's single-piston natural gas compressor would dramatically reduce the cost to build and maintain a natural gas refueling station, contributing to the widespread adoption of natural gas vehicles.
Improving the convenience of natural gas vehicle ownership could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and make consumers less vulnerable to sudden oil price shocks.
Natural gas vehicles produce approximately 10% less greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline-powered vehicles throughout the fuel life cycle.
Compressed natural gas currently costs half as much per gallon of gasoline equivalent. With the average American spending over $2000 per year on gas, enabling the use of natural gas vehicles could save drivers $1000 per year.