Chevrolet will commercialize a version of its 2015 Impala sedan that can run on biogas.
The Bi-fuel Impala powered by gasoline or compressed natural gas can run on biogas equivalents sourced from fuel providers who process it. One of these is Cleveland-based Quasar Energy Group which uses organic waste to produce the renewable energy source which is then converted into Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) – one of two fuels Chevrolet said can power the 2015 Chevrolet Bi-fuel Impala.
The waste may come from leftovers, table scraps, even grains from brewing beer … Whatever you can imagine as organic waste – aka garbage.
It’s not quite the same as back to the future, but word is GM will let us know when it gets there.
Seriously, biogas is the raw mixture of gases given off by the breakdown of organic materials kept in an oxygen-less environment. The resulting methane gas is then processed, removing all carbon dioxide and impurities to make Renewable Natural Gas (RNG). When compressed, RNG is a direct replacement for CNG.
Since biogas can be made from most organic materials, Quasar said it insources raw materials, otherwise considered waste, from a variety of industries. For instance, its Columbus, Ohio Renewable Energy Facility processes up to 25,000 wet tons of biosolids from the City of Columbus Department of Public Utilities for wastewater.
Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians, contributes food waste for CNG-production after it’s been macerated in an industrial-sized InSinkErator Grind2Energy garbage disposal. And don’t forget beer: Anheuser-Busch’s Columbus brewery provides an organic by-product to quasar for conversion to methane gas.
“If you can buy renewable fuel at $1.95 per gallon while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, everybody wins,” said Mel Kurtz, president of Quasar Energy Group. “Quasar’s Columbus facility can produce 1.3 million gasoline gallon equivalents of CNG each year.”
Chevrolet stated that amount is enough to fill the CNG tanks of 163,000 Bi-fuel Impalas at least once.
GM added though CNG fueling stations are prevalent in states like California and Oklahoma, infrastructure in some states is scarce.
“To avoid feelings of range anxiety common in owners of CNG-only vehicles, we made the Impala bi-fuel, allowing our customers to drive on CNG when available and on gasoline when it’s not,” said Nichole Kraatz, Impala chief engineer.
The CNG tank mounted in the trunk has the equivalent capacity of 7.8 gallons of gasoline, explained Chevrolet, which is expected to offer approximately 150 city miles of range on compressed natural gas based on GM testing. With gasoline and compressed natural gas combined, expected range is 500 city miles based on GM testing.
EPA estimates are not yet available.
Impala’s bi-fuel system seamlessly switches to gasoline power when the CNG tank is depleted, added Chevy. Drivers who wish to change fuels while driving can do so by simply pushing a button; a light on the instrument panel indicates when CNG is being used, and there is no interruption in the vehicle’s performance.
Operating on CNG can result in an average fuel savings of nearly $1.13 per gasoline-gallon-equivalent based on a national average of $3.24 per gallon of gasoline as reported by AAA and $2.11 per gge of CNG, reported by CNGnow.
Also, CNG vehicles typically have 20 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline-powered cars, according to the California Air Resources Board.
The Bi-fuel Impala is factory-built so its CNG fuel system is validated by GM and covered by GM’s three-year/36,000-mile new vehicle limited bumper-to-bumper warranty and five-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty.
Chevy added the Bi-fuel Impala is the only bifuel-capable sedan on the market to offer a factory warranty.
The Bi-fuel Impala goes on sale later this year and will carry and MSRP of $38,210.