The Motley Fool explores why natural gas automobiles have not been a success in the US. Natural gas is cheaper than gasoline and the fuel burns cleaner. Yet auto manufacturers are pushing electric and hydrogen vehicles far more than natural gas-powered ones. This is in contrast to the trucking industry where NGVs are growing steadily on the back of the US shale gas boom. One drawback is their lack of appeal to the environmentally conscious crowd who prefer to use less fossil fuel their vehicles. These are the early adapters of the hybrid and EV and presumable the hydrogen cars to come. However, the biggest challenge would appear to be the lack of refueling infrastructure in place. The US Department of Energy says there are only 632 compressed natural gas stations and just 42 liquefied natural gas stations in the country compared to 6,883 electric charging stations for public use. Thousands more natural gas fueling stations and additional compressed or liquefied natural gas plants would be needed to make this a viable fuel competitor for cars. The author suggests the infrastructure needed to make natural gas a viable option for average driver would cost billions of dollars.
When comparing the potential of natural gas with that of electric, the hurdles for EVs are far lower. At the end of the day, I don’t think natural gas will catch on beyond the trucking fleets.
Just Means discusses the trucking trend here.
As for the refueling infrastructure, Next Gen-Transportation News notes the US state of Pennsylvania is providing funding for the construction of 6 new CNG refueling stations and NGV Global News says a transportation fuel marketer in the US midwest is adding CNG to its offering at some 100 refueling stations in the states of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky.
It is not just trucking fleets that are moving to natural gas. Bus fleets are joining the trend. Several posts mentioned bus companies around the world that are taking this step. Dallas Area Rapid Transit in the US state of Texas is planning to convert its entire fleet of 580 vehicles to CNG. The city of Kladno in the Czech Republic has extended its CNG-powered bus fleet to 26 by purchasing 12 new buses that will be on the road by next month. The bus company’s goal is to increase this number to 60, equivalent to one third of the entire fleet. The Canadian city of Kamloops, British Columbia will have 25 new CNG buses by the spring of 2015. Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, is testing CNG buses with an intention to purchase 65 for its fleet. Bolivia’s Department of Tarija plants to convert 2,500 buses to natural gas.
Another growing area for natural gas vehicles is heavy duty construction vehicles and waste and recycling trucks. There were several posts about this wave in the past week. Budapest, Hungary is purchasing 60 municipal solid waste collector trucks powered by CNG. The acquisition will bring the total number of CNG-powered heavy duty vehicles in the city fleet to 100. Waste and recycling company Basin Disposal Inc. in the US state of Washington intends to have 8 CNG-powered garbage trucks in its fleet by the end of this year. A construction-materials firm based in the US state of Pennsylvania has acquired 30 ready-mix concrete trucks that run on CNG. In the US state of Wyoming, Alpha Coal West, Inc. is converting its entire fleet of 16 mine haul trucks to duel fuel (LNG and diesel). Spanish international logistics company Sesé Group has acquired 10 new natural gas powered Stralis Hi-Way tractors that can run on CNG or LNG. Each tractor has a range of 650 kilometers on LNG and 100 on CNG — a total of 750 kilometers. Berliner Stadtreinigung (BSR), a large Germany-based waste and recycling company, recently added 22 Mercedes-Benz Econic refuse trucks to its fleet that run on CNG, bringing the company’s total natural gas vehicles to 150 units.