State regulators cleared the way for PSNC Energy to sell a form of the heating and cooking fuel for automobiles.
PSNC, the Triangle's natural gas utility, plans to offer compressed natural gas to the public at three facilities that will operate 24 hours a day.
The fuel will cost $1.70 a gas-gallon equivalent -- about half the cost of gasoline -- and will be available in North Raleigh, East Raleigh and Gastonia. It can be used only by cars adapted for compressed natural gas, or CNG, such as the Honda Civic GX or a custom retrofitted vehicle.
CNG vehicles, considered to be the greenest on the planet, are typically used in municipal or industrial fleets of trucks that fill up at institutional facilities owned by government agencies or industries.
The country has only about 1,000 public stations, mostly in California and the Midwest, making CNG cars impractical for most drivers. This state will have only about a dozen such stations once Gastonia-based PSNC and Charlotte-based Piedmont Natural Gas complete plans to add a half-dozen stations in the state.
Piedmont, the state's biggest natural gas utility, charges about $1.63 per gas-gallon equivalent at its stations in Charlotte and Greensboro. The City of Raleigh charges $1.79 at its heavy equipment depot on New Bern Ave.
CNG-powered cars are among the most economical in the world because natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel, burning cleaner than the coal that is used to generate electricity for electric vehicles.
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has ranked the CNG Honda Civic as America's greenest car for the past eight years, surpassing all-electric and hybrid cars.
The N.C. Utilities Commission approved PSNC's rate yesterday and the order appeared online today.
PSNC is planning to open CNG stations in Raleigh by December 1. The eastern station will be at 4211 E. Global Street and the northern station will be at 2712-A Discovery Place. Both will be located on the property of PSNC Energy Operations Centers.
In Gastonia, PSNC is operating a CNG station at 800 Gaston Road, site of PSNC's corporate headquarters is located. This station will be taken out of service in mid-November for upgrading and re-opened by the end of the year.