Check your rear view mirror. That car zooming toward you may be fueled by natural gas — and it’s gaining fast.

Want proof? They were showing off a BMW X3 SUV, a Ford Mustang Coupe and even a family-friendly Ford Taurus powered by compressed natural gas, or CNG, in Southern California a few weeks ago. This road show of retrofitted vehicles, a project of an association of natural gas companies, is going national over the summer.  

In the worthwhile journey to sustainability CNG-powered cars are the logical next leg.

About 70% of oil is burned for transportation, and it generates almost a third of greenhouse gases. CNG burns cleaner, significantly reducing emissions, including 90+% less carbon monoxide compared to gasoline.  

Of course, we’re only in first gear when it comes to putting environmentally sustainable CNG-powered cars in every American driveway. Fleet and municipal vehicles are miles ahead, showing the rest of us the way.  According to the Department of Energy, there are about 112,000 vehicles powered by natural gas in the U.S. — mostly buses, garbage trucks and delivery vehicles.

Yield: Nanotechnology Ahead

Nanotechnology will play an important role in our transportation conversion. In the longer term, I predict nanomaterials will be used for lightweight impact-resistant fuel tanks. As we invent the infrastructure for filling stations, there’s an opportunity to nano-engineer for more durable, efficient, reliable distribution systems, too.

For now, there’s one crucial area where nanotechnology is already up to speed: efficient, safe sustainable extraction. Natural gas extraction, including hydraulic fracturing, is going on in 31 states. The venues range from oil sands in the Dakotas to family farms in Pennsylvania. Everyone involved is concerned about protecting the environment — reflecting the same goals as vehicle developers.