A Cheaper Road To Cleaner Car Exhaust

The 1990 Clean Air Act requires fleet owners in large cities to operate a certain number of alternative-fuel vehicles to help curtail low-level ozone. That's a headache for companies, partly because making the switch is expensive. Suddenly, however, there's a greater incentive to consider switching to natural gas.

An electronic device developed by the Gas Research Institute in Chicago can cut the cost of converting cars and trucks to natural gas by up to 33%, or $660. Typical conversion kits include a computer to regulate fuel flow. But it duplicates a computer that is standard on virtually all late-model vehicles. GRI's device, called Translator, makes use of the existing on-board computer. For instance, it modifies the electronic signals for gasoline fuel injectors so they can regulate natural-gas injectors. The result is a less expensive conversion to a cleaner, more efficient vehicle, says GRI. The Translator is being built by DAI Technologies Inc. in Lisle, Ill., and will be available next March at companies that specialize in conversions to alternative fuels.

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