Posted By RichC on June 8, 2010
The German Auto Club found CNG Fiat Panda to be the most Economical Car in Europe for real world driving conditions. Perhaps before U.S. driivers rush to plug-in electric models for commuting and around town driving we should be looking at a few more ‘current technology’ CNG vehicles?
The German equivalent of AAA — Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club, or ADAC — just finished an exhaustive test of almost all cars available for sale in Europe (241 to be exact) in real-world conditions to answer one question: which car can travel the farthest on €30 (~$36 US) worth of cash?
In Europe there are quite a few more choices in the… eh… economical range of offerings than we currently have in the U.S., so the competition pitted everything from natural gas to diesel to regular old petrol powered vehicles up against each other.
In the end, the Fiat Panda Natural Power — a dual fuel CNG/gasoline-powered vehicle — won hands down by traveling 724 kilometers (~450 miles) on €30 worth of CNG. If you do the calculations, that’s 8 cents a mile, which may sound kind of average to U.S. green car sensibilities, but consider that in Germany gasoline costs about $6.20 per gallon — meaning that even a 30 mpg car would cost about 21 cents per mile to drive there. At $3 per gallon gas, that same 30 mpg car will cost you 10 cents a mile in the U.S.—
Even though all the press releases I read on the topic were rather cagey about what the average fuel efficiency of the Panda was during the tests, I did a few back calculations to figure it out myself. ADAC used an average price of €0.94 per kg for the CNG calculations (as shown in the above picture), which means that they obtained a fuel efficiency of 22.7 km (14.1 miles) per kg of CNG, seeing as they traveled 724 km on €30 of fuel.
In the US, CNG is sold in units of gasoline gallon equivalents (gge) instead of kilograms, but using this handy calculator, I was able to figure out that the current average U.S. price of $1.90 per gge is equivalent to €0.62 per kg — roughly 65% of the cost of the €0.94 used by ADAC in their tests. So in the U.S., the same Fiat Panda Natural Power would go 450 miles on about $23 of CNG — or about 5 cents per mile, the equivalent of a 60 mpg car at $3 per gallon gas in the US..
Given that the Fiat Panda Natural Power starts at about €14,000 (~$16,700), if what you’re after is pure economy and you live in Europe, that sounds like a steal.