Eaton Corporation, a company involved in electric vehicle charging, is now on a mission to develop a next-generation home refueling station for natural gas vehicles. The company is aiming to solve one of the vexing challenges for commercializing natural gas passenger vehicles for general consumers: affordable at-home natural gas refueling.
Home refueling allows natural gas vehicle owners to fuel up at home with a wall-mounted vehicle refueling appliance, similar to charging an electric vehicle. The appliance uses the natural gas source available at most homes and many businesses, compressing the gas to the 3600 psi required by a natural gas vehicle.
In operation, the fueling appliance’s fill line is connected to the vehicle’s CNG fueling inlet with a compression fitting, and then the tank is slow-filled overnight. In the morning you’re ready to go with a full tank of fuel that’s considerably cheaper, and cleaner, than gasoline.
The most high-profile example for home refueling has been the CNG appliance manufactured by FuelMaker, once marketed by Honda as ‘Phill,’ an option to accompany its natural gas Civic model. This vehicle refueling appliance is now manufactured by BRC FuelMaker and marketed in the U.S. through IMPCO Technologies. While convenient and easy to use, the challenge for consumers has been one of cost – simply, refueling appliances are not inexpensive. The natural gas industry recognizes this and is focused on developing competitive refueling appliances that will overcome the cost issue.
Enter Eaton with a development project partly funded with $3.4 million from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). The goal: No less than developing a production prototype home vehicle refueling station that will retail for about one tenth of the cost of currently available systems, which currently come in at about $5,000 to $10,000. Eaton is targeting a production price of $500 with a prototype available by the end of 2015.