“Impossible”, “No way!”, “Are you out of your mind?”. These are just some of the spontaneous reactions we got from people on the street when we asked them if they thought it was possible to drive from Barcelona to Madrid for 20 euros. In order to prove them wrong, Andrew Shepherd, an expert on CNG at SEAT, set himself the goal of making the trip in a car fuelled with this alternative fuel source that costs up to 50% less than petrol and 30% less than diesel.
Shepherd set out on his trip at the wheel of a Leon ST TGI* from a Gas Natural Fenosa gas station in Barcelona. As he pulled away to begin the challenge, he declared that “compressed natural gas is a very compelling alternative energy for the car industry”, not only for its low cost, but also because it helps contribute to lowering emissions levels established by the European Union. This kind of energy represents a 25% reduction in CO2 compared to traditional fuels, and an additional 87% reduction in nitrogen oxide compared to diesel fuelled vehicles.
Upon reaching the city of Lleida 162 kilometres into the trip, the car had consumed 5.67 kilos of compressed natural gas, at a cost of €5.27. With the motorway stretching out in front of him the rest of the way, Shepherd pointed out that handling and driving style is no different than on cars equipped with other kinds of engines: “this type of vehicle delivers the same performance as those in the range that are fuelled with petrol or diesel, so the way you drive is exactly the same, as is the driving experience”.
Shepherd arrived in Zaragoza after driving under the landmark Greenwich Meridian arch: 317 kilometres into the trip, 11.08 kilos of compressed natural gas consumed and €10.30 spent. The motorway runs through several wind farms in the area, with swirling wind turbines dominating the landscape. With that image in mind, Shepherd mused that the use of renewable energy is going to increase in the future, and especially in the automotive sector. “Compressed natural gas definitely ranks high as one of the fuels of the future”, he said.
There are around two million CNG fuelled cars being driven around the European Union. Italy leads the European market for this fuel while in Spain there are currently 4,000 units. According to Shepherd, regardless of society’s increasingly greater ecological awareness, the future expansion of the network of gas refuelling stations will certainly stimulate sales of this kind of vehicle in Spain.
Driving down Paseo de la Castellana, Shepherd arrived at his final destination: the centre of Madrid. When he reached Plaza de Castilla under the shimmering Torres Kio he proved it could be done: the Leon ST TGI had consumed 21.53 kilos of compressed natural gas to cover a distance of 615 kilometres at a cost of only 20 euros, an unbelievable amount according to most people.
* Commercial name given by SEAT to direct injection (TSI) engines fuelled with compressed natural gas.