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CNG: A Hate Story. A road trip gone wrong of epic proportions


CNG: A Hate Story. A road trip gone wrong of epic proportions

Old 11-30-2017, 04:50 PM
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Wise choice. You are now better informed than I was!
Old 01-24-2018, 01:07 AM
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Originally Posted by GreenMM View Post
CNG: A Hate Story.

So you buy yourself a CNG van. You think carpool lane access 24/7 sounds pretty cool.
Saving a lot at the pump pretty cool. Clean burning fuel that’s in abundance made in the USA sounds pretty cool.

Scratch that smooth playing record here.
Here’s the real deal on this piece of **** fuel setup. Read on. If you enjoy the concept of Schadenfreude particularly you’ll be tickled.

So imagine you have a vehicle you find out later has expired tanks. Let’s say the buyer didn’t tell you that and basically lied about that part.
Let’s say you cannot get them inspected and certified due to a finite final federal ‘expiration’ that should have been 20 years for your model year but somehow you got the 15 year limit.
Let’s say that it’s minimum $1000 for crappy range single tank to $5000 for proper tanks that doesn’t include labor. And few shops will touch this job to boot.

So you start thinking about making it a ‘gasser’ right? But gosh that would be illegal to switch fuel delivery systems.

After much searching and losing out on parts vans that would be very good sources - like exact year matches, you spy with your little eye all the parts needed from a 2006 e350 van. You think they are the same as long as the have the 5.4L Triton gasoline engine and it does have that motor.

So you go on the road and drive your CNG van 176 miles to location. 3 - 3.5 hours drive Google says.
So how how does it take you? 9 hours. You get there at 7pm.
Why the delay you say? Well. you fill up at a known spot 30 miles on the way. Full tank. You’re all set right? Nope, not with CNG, you’ve got a finite range of 200 miles. Oh, and did seller mention you get worse fuel mileage with CNG. Nope. SO you take a 25% efficiency hit. That 1 massive CNG tank and 2 ‘optional’ ones sound pretty good right now don’t they? It get’s better - you can only fill the tanks to true capacity with an overnight ‘slow’ charge fill up (19 gallon equivalent). The 5-6 minute fast charge… 13 gallon equivalent max. Which is all any private person can do.

You plot a course to Woodland, CA sort of on the way, but really out of the way, which has CNG 24/7 credit card access. So you get there, and… it only has 3600 psi. You need 3000 psi. The nozzles won’t fit, (which is one true thing seller told you, and you verify this when you get desperate later on in this story).
A friendly person inside office looks up CNG stations in Woodland and gives you print out with 6 addresses. So you drive all over town looking, squandering more fuel.
3 stations don’t exist. One is Chevron and the guy blinks at you when you mention CNG. Of course it’s not here. One ’address’ is a private home in a cul-de-sac. This one sends over the edge. You phone a friend with a violent diatribe as you sit in your van bathed in sweat while they try to help you online plot any course anywhere… You can't run your A/C because you're worried about even worse gas mileage. (It's only 95 degrees and rising).

Kill another half hour right there. After dropping 2 hours in town. And driving well out of your route. You figure all you can do is drive to another location 30 miles away in the wrong direction southwest to fill up. But wait, you can’t. Because you can make it out of your way 50 miles to Elk Gove, but you can’t drive north to North Chico and back south there with your fantastic 200 mile limit.
So you plot a course also out of the way but not as bad to Marysville, where there is an account only PGE station with allegedly 3000 and 3600 psi fuel. There’s no other choice if you want these parts and to drive back, so you drive there.
You get there, with about 20 miles of range left and enjoy the crisping burning sun. Central valley Cali - no thanks.
You wait, and sit, and wait. And drive and wander around the deserted PGE station hoping to find an employee to help you. No go, the place is abandoned. Yet somehow a few truck trickle out the back - away from the fill area, and roar by before you can run over to flag them down.

Finally a Honda civic CNG pulls up. He’s a nice friendly guy who can barely believe your story of chasing phantom stations and driving way out of the way in the wrong directions several times wasting fuel. Well actually, he sort of can, he owns a CNG car after all. So he’s not terribly surprised. He’s fills your tank and takes your cash from your gratetful hands. This adds one more hour to your trip at this station in addition to the several hours driving wrong directions and 2 hours chasing non existent stations in Woodland.

You finally make it super rural north-of-Chico. It’s now 7pm.
There are four huge pigs roaming around and three guys without shirts, but with, sunburns. And car carcasses everywhere. You wonder if this is a remote chop shop…?

You also realize you’ve never dropped a gas tank in your life, never disconnected a fuel line, it’s hot and dusty as hell… This is gonna go smooth. Cue holidays in the sun fun soundtrack.

Surprisingly the parts removal goes pretty smooth. Easy to drop the tank, fuel lines not bad. One side of fuel rail is loose and injectors lifted out of engine. You also now see that 2 of the 8 injectors are missing (seller says - hmmm… must have been the guy who paid for the coils 'took' {stole} two of them…)
That’s nice. You later also realize the ECU module you need is completely on another planet different in this newer e350. Much much larger with 3 massive connectors compared to your trim little 2 connector ECU. No good, you leave it there.
Also when you get to the gas tank you notice some massive canister at the back of the van the tank has 3 vents that go to. ****, that’s a lot more work to get all that and you don’t even know what it is. Better get this mystery return to engine line too, and now the entire wiring harness from the driver wheel well area to the back too. I’ve seen something like this on my California model Kawasaki - a charcoal canister and vapor recovery and re-burn system. This is gonna be a lot more complicated that you thought now. EGR, MAF do I grab all that? Is that the EGR? Wait, what it that? What are all these vacuum tube lines? Do I already have any of this with the CNG fuel setup? Where does this end? No time to compare motors - you’re in a hurry and your van has the radiator, airbox, doghouse in the way of course so you cannot see anything.

So you work until 12:30 and sleep right in there driveway - they are kind enough to offer the spot. They were really nice to deal with and helpful people in fact. And you’re filthy. So filthy your sheets are rust colored dirt in the morning.

But let’s get back to the title…
You get up the next day and remove parts at 8am until 4:45pm. You’re done. But really are you?
You know this gas tank is different, with the vapor recovery system. You can see the fuel injectors have a different plastic connector size than your own. You know you’re screwed on the ECU. So you grab the back window, the hood latch as agreed to before for price X, and make a deal for all four door trim panels that you’ve been wanting and the back door Ford logo for original price (minus the ECU and 2 injectors at previously agreed price but plus wiring harness and collector / charcoal canister and return line and all frame clips). At least the price was a killer deal for all these parts, ‘cuz this trip is gonna cost you. Big time.

Then you start your drive home and to your midnight flight back home cross country.
So remember how you calculated exactly filling up in Marysville, and with the complete **** unacceptable range of 200 miles total you can drive WITH THREE F-ING CNG TANKS ONBOARD (that by the way hog up your spare tire area completely), you can make it back to Elk Grove, CA where there is that 24/7 credit card place with CNG? You’ve planned it all carefully, and never leaving the route you should arrive there at 183 miles. You did the math right, right? You did? Cause this is how you have to drive this p.o.s. system. Guess what?

Actually, You’re right. You do make it there at 183 miles on the button. Not a wrong turn. Now, that steering vibration has hit a crescendo and the van shakes violently at 45mph so you’re driving just under that on a free way. So add time here please. Wonderful. No time to check what’s causing your van to hop and shake ‘cuz tick tock on the clock, your plane leaves in 5 hours and you have to plan extra time with CNG.

Anyway… back to CNG… my hate. You get to the station and what presents to you? CNG but not for me. It’s only the 3600 psi and not the 3000 psi. You have a **** fit. You freak out. You phone a friend and have them scour the internets for anything anywhere you have a chance in hell making. Remember, your Odometer is now at 183 and 200 is the max you can go.

Anger and anxiety rises to obscene levels. Everything depended on driving out of the way to this place. But your buddy finds an account only station. It’s located 37 miles away, past the 200 mile limit but there is nothing else. You must go. Slowly, gently on the throttle while all the uptight drivers crawl up your *** on the roads. So you get there.
And what’s there? Account only access to the CNG of course. And of course - you don’t have an account. And you found out yesterday you can never get one (without about $5000 pocket change to spare).
But it finally is your type and it is here. Tick Tock. It’s now 8pm. Your flight leaves at 11:39pm and you are 80 miles from home, and another 20 to the airport. You haven’t packed. You’re pig pen. And hungry.
You wait. The place is empty, no one around. No other account holders in sight.
If you have any chance of making your flight you need fuel right now. You think and panic inside.

You’ve used a company, let’s call them “Clean Energy”. You call an after hours number and get a friendly guy on the phone - on the weekend! He checks, a station that is 37 miles away has 24/7 credit card access to CNG and verifies repeatedly that the station has 3000 psi - he puts you on hold and checks with the person who services the station regularly. Yes, they have CNG at 3000 psi guaranteed. You tell him you can probably make it there and nowhere else. He assures you multiple times.

So what do you do? You get the hell out of Stockton - slowly - you’ve got to make this one.
You creep down there as gentle as possible. Fly past the 200 mile limit. To nearly 230 watching the fuel gauge deep all the way into the red ‘E’.

And you make it! The station is there - it is 24/7. But not for you. There are only normal 3600 psi nozzle which won’t fit your vehicle and huge massive semi truck connectors that are about 5x your nozzle size. Oh this is just f-ing fantastic. You realize now at 9pm you have no chance to make your flight. Your gamble was completely wrong. You are screwed.

So now, you have just one option left. To limp back north to Stockton, try to make it, and wait for any account holder to help you. You also know it ain't gonna happen.
You gently get on the throttle and eke up the highway, and make it... two exits in fact, actually you don’t make the 2nd one before you are OUT of fuel. Empty. Nada. Super screwed. You roll down to the exit and roll off the highway and realize you’ve hit your low point. A tow is now your only choice. There is no small container of fuel that exists for CNG for a bump of fuel.

You call 5 tow places, 3 closed, one is ‘busy’ and won’t come out. One wants $165 to tow you 11 miles and 1 hour wait. You find behind door #6 somehow who will leave now, 30 minutes and tow you for $95. You cheap insides roil at this idea but you have no choice now - do you?
Tow guy gets you - it must be a flatbed style with the ‘optional’ ‘range extending’ tanks #2 and #2 that hold almost nothing.

You get dropped back at the Stockton CNG station and wait. It’s 10pm. The place - well the town - is sketchy. You observe all kinds of skinny random tattooed people walking, riding old junks bikes, howling, etc… by you. Nice place. So how long will it be before you see a regular account holder to beg for fuel? You wait and wait… 2am you say? Surely not. Correct. By 2am you decide it’s not happening and crawl into the back of van to ‘sleep’. You wake up often to motor noises (could that be someone filling up next to you?) and random noises, and let’s not forget the rogue fireworks going off all night (4th July weekend, party on dude).

By 4am the Waste Management garbage guys are queued up all around you. They are nice but cannot help you. They say they could be fired for doing that. So you wait and try to sleep more.
You see many garbage truck come in and out.

By 8am you resume your vigil in the cockpit. Now how long would you think you would wait for fuel?
By 10:30am a super shuttle guy shows up. You can tell right off the bat he’s an ******.
He barely listens to your story, and at the end he says he’s in a hurry and 20 minutes late to pick up someone and can’t wait. It would take like 4-5 minutes to fuel you up, but hey he’s in a hurry. So he leaves you there stranded again, and give you a friendly nod on the way out. Yeah, thanks dude, that encouragement helps me oh so much.

So you wait and you wait. It’s 95 degrees and full sun. Wonder if your van is getting hot in the sun? Did you bring enough food and water for 3 days? Nope. you planned for an overnight and an extra lunch. So another day with nearly no food and water running low. There are some businesses around but you don’t want to leave your vigil in case you miss that one guy driving a CNG Honda civic.

You, well, you now have TIME on your hands, so you read your manual, get online and see vague hazy suggestions where to jack up the front end and finally figure it out, and change out your tumor shaped, tread chunk missing driver front tire with full size spare. Your phone charge is running down. And nice, you’re filthy again.
That package of Huggies asswipes come in ‘handy’ but you really don’t get all the brake dust and grime off your hands.

By 3pm you are near starving ravenous. So you decide F it and lock up and walk to the bowling alley and order a cheeseburger and pasta salad along with a huge water. While waiting, you decide to shampoo your hair and clean up in bathroom sink. Brown dirt flows out of your hair like you wouldn’t believe. You come back and you’re drink has been ‘cleaned up’. Oh well, you brought your ‘nalgene’ type bottle and fill your own. Burger is lousy, but it’s food and it’s Stockton and a Bowling alley, whaddya want?
You walk back to van. Now 4pm. You’ve been here, stranded next to CNG pump for 18 hours. 18 hours you’ve been waiting to get fuel from a perfectly good working pump. 18 hours, did I mention this? I think that number is 18.
The PGE employees - the few of them there that mostly drive trucks from spot A to B in there razor wired parking lots behind fences, all cannot help you and say they don’t know anything about CNG or how to fill etc… and it’s a holiday weekend and 4th of July so hardly anyone is here.

At 5pm, you now realize and try to ‘psyche’ yourself up and ‘brace’ yourself - you’re gonna be putting in another overnight here at this ****ty station waiting for fuel. It’s the fourth of July and every privately owner Honda Civic CNG either is out of town or doesn’t exist ‘cause smarter people than yourself have already figured out that CNG sucks and just say no.

You sit around more and more, and then you start to move around and re-pack your home in the back. You are now thinking very clearly of dumping this van altogether, with a botched parts run you never should have made, and the worst fuel delivery system the world has seen since relying on Icarus’ arm stamina.
You realize you’re going to have to get all your stuff out into a new van, including the custom made bed that you measured will never fit out the back doors.
You look closely at the clamshell doors. Surely there must be a way to get the doors fully opened and out of the way - maybe disconnect the hinge or unbolt them? You study it all and notice a little button looking thingee on the hinge… Surely it could not be… that would be too convenient and clever… but it IS. The door simply releases at the push of this little button and swings all the way out! You measure your bed carefully and noting your deliberate ‘undersizing’ of the width at precisely 53.5” wide you’ve got… 1 inch clearance! Woohoo! Some good news on a really wonderful weekend. You can get this all out. Which is also quite nice to think that if your motorcycle ever broke down far away you could empty the van without much fuss now and go get it. Neat! Great job Ford on this design. Something sounds odd to your ear. For some reason you peer around your clamshell door to the front - and are staring at a Super Shuttle next to you! You pounce on this guy like a vulture on a 3 day old rotting stinking carcass in the African sun…
He’s a nice Russian driver who nods politely at your tale of woe but really doesn’t understand much of your language- but… he does understand CA$H. He will help you. You are saved finally.

Finally 19+ hours into this wait, you get filled up. Oh, your plane is long gone. Add that to the cost of this parts run too.

CNG how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
You F&*ing piece of SH%t joke of a fuel delivery and distribution system may you rot in hell.
Happy long Holiday weekend to me. I had oh so much fun.

i stopped reading after the first three paragraphs. Learn how to do Homework.
Old 02-27-2018, 03:44 PM
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Wise choice. I am restricting this vehicle to short trips of less than 60 miles range from Oakland, CA where I have 2 stations to choose from for reliable fill ups.
I still intend to make it a 'gasser'. Breaking my ankle in 2017 didn't help speed up that process...
Old 08-09-2018, 05:16 PM
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Well, the update to this story of "Evan" the van is that Evan has rolled on to greener pastures.
I never did make the CNG to gasoline swap 95% due to no space / garage / working on the public street as only option and 5% a time issue. The time was not a factor before, but last year my work has gone cuckoo and I'm far too busy to drop 2+ days on a plan that frankly may or may not have worked well to go gas.
I just sold it last night (for more than I paid for it, although I did all that interior work and bought materials ($90), bed $20, etc... and put in a $146 battery, $178 wheels and tires upgrade, $67 oil cooler and additional fluids.
But it was a great 2.5 year run!
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