Iran has seen the fastest growth in natural-gas vehicles. They accounted for 1.7 million of the country's 11 million vehicles at the end of 2009, up from about 115,000 in 2006. That number is expected to hit 2.5 million vehicles by early 2012, according to a spokesman for an international conference on CNG technologies that took place in Tehran this year.
One driver for the switch has been the need to replace aging, highly inefficient cars that have led to high levels of pollution in Tehran.
But international sanctions (or the threat of them) have also helped. "Developing CNG industries is one of the most important policies to make Iran invulnerable against the risk of more sanctions," says Mahmoudreza Bagherbeik, who helps manage the government's CNG program.
Because of a lack of refining capacity, Iran has long depended on imports for almost half of its gasoline consumption. Over the summer, when Iran's pursuit of nuclear technology prompted the U.S. to adopt sanctions targeting the supply of gasoline to Iran, Iran responded by temporarily converting petrochemical plants into refineries and turning more of its car-refueling infrastructure to CNG.
The transition to CNG was feasible because Iran holds the world's second-largest natural-gas reserves, behind Russia, and can rely on a manufacturing base that includes the Middle East's largest domestic car industry. In addition, Iran has built 1,500 CNG refueling stations and expects to have 2,400 ... >>>
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