Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

DaimlerChrysler Puts Spin on CNG-Powered Vehicles

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

DaimlerChrysler Puts Spin on CNG-Powered Vehicles

Article excerpt

DETROIT -- The Dodge Charger design study, introduced by DaimlerChrysler at the North American International Auto Show here, looks like a modern rendition of the 1960s muscle car from which it got its name. Under its long hood, the Charger concept car, like its predecessor, has a powerful V8 -- in this case, a supercharged 4.7- liter engine producing 325 horsepower.

But instead of the gas-guzzling, pollution-belching engines of Chargers in the late `60s and early `70s, the show car has a superclean engine that runs on compressed natural gas, known as CNG. If the Charger were put into production, it would qualify as an ultra-low-emission vehicle in California.

With the Charger, DaimlerChrysler is not only resurrecting a popular name and making the point that alternative-fuel vehicles can be fun, it is showcasing a new technology to store compressed natural gas that could make the clean-burning fuel more practical for everyday use. The Charger's tank storage system was developed by the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, which primarily conducts research for the federal departments of Defense and Energy. The tanks' compact size, reduced weight and ease of installation are comparable to the traits of gasoline tanks, John Wozniak, manager of the lab's advanced natural gas vehicle project, said in a recent interview. The Charger concept with the new storage tanks is designed to carry an amount of natural gas equivalent to 12 gallons of gasoline, providing a travel range of 300 to 350 miles. Typically, natural- gas vehicles, like a CNG version of the Dodge Ram Van, can go only about 100 miles on a tank. Furthermore, the tanks give designers more flexibility, allowing them to reserve the car's trunk for cargo instead of for bulky tanks. With traditional CNG tanks, the fuel is in cylinders that are individually wrapped in expensive carbon-fiber material, each with its own safety valve. The integrated storage system in the Charger concept car, and in a test fleet of Plymouth Breeze and Dodge Stratus sedans, combine the cylinders into a single-wrapped package that is placed in a solid housing that somewhat resembles an egg carton, with one safety valve for all. …

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