Are natural gas cars really more economical and environmentally friendly??

The Spanish VW subsidiary Seat has the largest CNG fleet. Leon, Arona, Ibiza and even the small Mii are available with the alternative drive

Is natural gas the solution for road traffic?? More climate-friendly and even more economical? We tested the seat arona CNG, the first natural gas SUV on the market. A check with pitfalls.

  • the seat arona TGI is the first natural gas SUV on the market.
  • Natural gas cars promise to be more environmentally friendly and economical.
  • We put the seat to the acid test.

This is how gas power works in the seat arona TGI

accelerating with gas. It’s a whole new experience when driving a car. So first back to school. We learn, of course, by distance learning and by google: CNG is compressed natural gas. As the name implies, this is genuine natural gas, extracted from the depths of the earth and compressed, then pumped into the tank via a gas pump. In contrast to LPG "liquified petroluem gas", that is, gas that has been liquefied under pressure. It is a by-product of the refining of petroleum.

Who does not know, where to look no difference between the conventional arona and the gas arona. Only the three capital letters TGI on the rear reveal that this is a very special car. And there’s a subtle but crucial difference in the speedometer, too. Here the instrument cluster shows two ranges at once. With a full tank of gas, you can travel 300 kilometers, with gasoline another 100 kilometers, the display tells us.

And back to school for the next lesson. The arona has a normal engine that runs on gas and on gasoline. That is: first the gas is burned, then the gasoline. You have no choice, everything is automatic. There is no need to change gears, let alone pull a lever. In this way, the hermaphroditic creature on two wheels creates over 400 kilometers range. more than what most electric cars have to offer.

Looks like a Seat Arona, is a Seat Arona: But under the hood, the TGI is a hermaphrodite. It burns both gas and gasoline

Doesn’t sound all that bad at first, but it has a horse’s foot – because there is only few CNG filling stations. About 850 throughout germany. That’s not enough in principle. Above all, however, if you need one every 300 kilometers. But you have to if you want to drive exclusively on gas – and thus in an environmentally conscious way. The nine liters of gasoline in the tank should only be there for emergencies.

Seat arona TGI: how environmentally friendly is gas really??

VW subsidiary seat, which has the most CNG cars of all manufacturers in its range with the leon, ibiza, mii and arona, claims: "CNG-powered engines are more environmentally friendly than gas-powered cars emit up to 25 percent less CO2 than other internal combustion engines and up to 95 percent less nitrogen oxides (nox). In addition, in a direct comparison, hardly any soot particles are emitted." and also the ADAC confirms: "in the combustion process it costs mostly less pollutants than gasoline and especially diesel fuel. The biggest plus of natural gas is the reduction of the greenhouse gas CO2 by around 20 percent compared to gasoline."

This is the "fridays for future" concept strongly affected environmental conscience already soothed. So let’s get into the mini-SUV, which is really nothing more than a small car with a higher roof.

SUV or not SUV - that is the question. The Arona doesn't have all-wheel drive, just a five-centimeter higher seating position and a correspondingly beefy look

Seat arona TGI: how the natural gas car performs on the road and when refueling

And off we go. Rather sluggish. The 1.0-liter engine with its 90 hp is a rather narrow-bodied little fellow. Regardless of whether gasoline or natural gas is being burned. However, we imagine that the CNG model is a tick louder. the sprint values feel decent, the torque of 160 nm is applied relatively early, so you feel it like in a diesel. But that also means shifting, shifting, shifting, because upwards, the performance becomes thin. It feels fast, but the figures are rather lame: with 13.2 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h, the arona is not exactly a sprinter.

But that is not the point. Besides its environmental friendliness, the seat arona TGI is supposed to impress us with its economy convince. It already starts when refueling. The government is not as generous with this as it is with gasoline and diesel. By the end of 2023, the tax will be just 17.79 cents per kilogram. Then the obolus will rise in stages, and from 2027 it will be 40.70 cents. The government subsidy is a kind of reward for the fact that a natural gas car produces less CO2. At the moment it costs the kilo of natural gas costs between 1.10 and 1.16 euros. This makes it much cheaper than gasoline or diesel. And it also offers more power due to its higher energy density. One kilo of CNG will get you as far as 1.44 liters of gasoline or 1.28 liters of diesel. Purely arithmetically.

Filling up with gas is just as easy as with gasoline or diesel. The nozzle only has to be locked in the tank coupling, and the compressed gas is pumped into the steel tanks

Speaking of fuel. From the moment you find a gas station, refueling is also a lot cheaper no more complicated than conventional fuels. Put the nozzle in the clutch, lock it, and you’re done. When the tank is full, simply flip the lever again and get out with the trunk. At most, the noise when the last few hundred grams of fuel are added sounds strange and disturbing. You get used to it.

Seat arona TGI consumption: manufacturer’s figures not met

But now to the test consumption, which was determined at cool early-winter temperatures. We didn’t get by at all with the stated 3.9 kilograms per 100 kilometers (new WLTP standard). 5.5 kilograms on average. With a price per kilo of 1.16 euros, this adds up to 6.40 euros in fuel costs per 100 kilometers. That is not exactly little.

If you compare that with the privately driven four year old seat leon ST – then you’ll get the same result üThe advantage of the CNG car outweighs the disadvantage, but it is not completely convincing. Because with the mini gasoline (1.2 liter displacement) we need on average only 5.7 liters and thus about 7.50 euros per 100 kilometers.

If you then add in the fact that a CNG-arona (equipment style) in the acquisition with 20.320 euro by just under 1.000 euros more expensive than its conventional counterpart, you have to be a very frequent driver to feel a significant effect here. Higher maintenance costs are not incurred, with the TGI only the gas test has to be done additionally. For the sake of simplicity, this can be done at the same time as the main inspection (HU) for an additional fee of 20 euros. The inspection costs are just as high as for a pure gasoline engine.

Conclusion on the seat arona TGI: how environmentally friendly and economical is it really??

For those who need a good green conscience as a gentle pillow of peace, switching to a CNG car like this is definitely worthwhile. If you are only interested in saving money, you may be disappointed. What’s more, the frequent refueling is a hassle. Only 13.8 kilograms fit in the tank. During our test drive it was therefore empty after only 270 kilometers. In addition, the trunk shrinks as a result of this. 120 liters less – leaving only a meager 245 liters left over. Just enough for a small family.

With the TGI, the trunk shrinks by 120 liters to 245 liters. That's not much, at best enough for a small family with one child

All in all, the natural gas seat is a real alternative to gasoline, diesel and electric vehicles. More environmentally friendly by all means, but hardly more economical. But it doesn’t really offer a solution to the mobility crisis.

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Christina Cherry
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