While petroleum-sourced fuel prices continue to rise, changes are necessary in order to mitigate them. One way is to improve fuel economy, including engine design and partial or full electrification. These methods are helpful, but with the increasing availability of natural gas, perhaps a change in fuel is worth looking into.
Since compressed natural gas [CNG] and liquified natural gas [LNG] stations are expensive and not very common, less than 1,200 in the US compared to some 159,000 gasoline stations, there are not too many CNG or LNG vehicles on the road today.
In order to save money on transportation, though, fleet operators can afford to have these stations installed themselves, to take advantage of the low price of natural gas. A recent study by Pike Research sees sales of natural gas vehicles, especially trucks and tractor-trailers, to increase by 15% a year for the next six years or so.
In spite of the limited number of LNG stations, just 61 in the US compared to 1,100 CNG stations, Pike expects LNG truck sales to increase faster than CNG truck sales.
This is good news for fleet operators and environmentalists, since natural gas isn’t only cheaper, but has fewer emissions than gasoline or diesel. “NG vehicles emit substantially lower levels of GHGs, particulate matter, and nitrogen oxide than either gasoline- or diesel-powered trucks and buses,” says senior research analyst Dave Hurst.
“What’s more, compared to diesel engines, natural gas provides a financial benefit. In most cases, the higher incremental cost of an NG vehicle is typically recovered, due to lower fuel costs, within two to seven years,” the study says.