Spanish gas supplier Gas Natural and General Motors’ local unit have teamed up to develop the compressed natural gas (CNG) car market in Spain.

Under the strategic partnership, Gas Natural will set up a CNG refuelling network in the country – which has only two stations so far – while GM will continue to market its Corsa-based Opel Combo ecoM and Zafira ecoM models to fleets and private buyers.

Barcelona-based Gas Natural will supply the CNG under its gnAuto brand.

The collaboration comes as Spain is rushing to promote green cars as part of a package of environmental initiatives which have so far failed to meet Kyoto protocol CO2 reduction targets.

The government has introduced a series of incentives to promote hybrid and gas-powered cars including a EUR2,000 rebate for new vehicle purchases, a series of tax cuts, parking privileges and other perks.

GM-owned Saab struck a similar deal with Spanish biofuels maker Abengoa last year as it launched its 9-5 Biopower flex-fuel vehicle in Spain, which runs on an E85 ethanol brew.

A spokesman for GM, which so far has sold 40,000 CNG cars in Europe (mainly in Italy and Germany), said the government’s incentives offset the higher price of gas versus diesel models and makes it more cost effective to buy a gas car. A gas car costs EUR5.7 per 100 kilometres (62 miles) compared to EUR7.3 for a diesel, he added.

There are roughly 1,300 CNG cars in Spain. While GM hopes to sharply increase their number, the spokesman would not provide sales projections.

For its part, Gas Natural, which runs a corporate fleet of 40 CNG vehicles, is close to opening its first private filling station in Valencia on Spain’s eastern coast. The two others are in the capital Madrid and Barcelona and support both cities’ gas-powered bus fleets.

Both companies will work to promote the cars and the technology for use in public fleets including transport, renting companies, professional associations, businesses and taxis. There will also be a push to sell the cars to private buyers.

In a joint statement, the companies said using gas to power cars in Spain would cut 7,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually and 300 tonnes of NOx.

Ivan Castano