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Eaton also developing inexpensive at-home refuelling station for natural gas vehicles

July 20, 2012 - Eaton Corp. announced today it is developing an affordable home refuelling station for natural gas (NG) vehicles, utilizing existing natural gas sources in the home and compressor technology to deliver the alternative fuel source safely and efficiently to vehicles.


July 20, 2012
By Anthony Capkun

“Innovative projects like these have the potential to make natural gas vehicles more affordable and convenient for every American family and revolutionize the way we commute,” said Dane Boysen, director of the Department of Energy’s Methane Opportunities for Vehicular Energy (MOVE) program. “My hope is that these advanced technologies will enable us to use our abundant domestic supply of natural gas for transportation, diversifying our nation’s fuel and refuelling portfolio for the future.”

The effort is funded in part by a $3.4-million grant from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), with the goal of developing a production prototype for refuelling stations that will retail for about 1/10 the cost of currently available systems.

The development project will be led by Eaton’s Innovation Center teams in Southfield, Mich., and Milwaukee, Wisc., and the Advanced Hydraulics group in Eden Prairie, Minn. Teams will draw on Eaton’s expertise in hydraulic component and systems design, and experience gained through the development and installation of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.

The company will collaborate with the University of Minnesota on thermodynamic analysis and modelling to enable the efficient transfer of heat in the compression process. The refuelling system will use liquid, which acts as a piston, to compress natural gas. Heat exchanger technology will improve efficiency and cut cost dramatically.

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“With the development of this breakthrough compressor and refuelling system, Eaton will remove an important barrier to increased use of natural gas-powered cars and trucks,” said Chris Roche, VP Innovation Center, Corporate Technology. This project presents an exciting opportunity to find a safe, efficient and sustainable way to harness a critical alternative fuel source.”

Current natural gas refuelling systems cost between $5000 and $10,000, says Eaton. It expects its prototype will be available before the end of 2015 with a target production price of $500.