With proven reserves of domestic natural gas soaring and our dependence on foreign oil as burdensome as ever, it only makes sense to start using clean, inexpensive, and abundant natural gas as a vehicle fuel. Natural gas vehicles (NGVs) are good for our economy, our environment, and your bottom line. Whether you’re an individual or a fleet manager, never before have there been so many natural gas products and services available, spurred by unprecedented industry investment and government incentives. Read on to learn more about the many benefits of NGVs.
Facts about Natural Gas Vehicles
- There are about 120,000 NGVs on U.S. roads today and more than 15.2 million worldwide.
- There are about 1,000 NGV fueling stations in the U.S., about half of which are open to the public.
- There are also “Home Refueling Appliances” available.
- In the U.S., about 50 different manufacturers produce 100 models of light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles and engines.
- Natural gas currently costs from $1.50–$2.00 less per gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE).
- In the U.S. alone, NGVs offset the use of nearly 360 million gallons of gasoline in 2011.
- NGVs meet the strictest emission standards, including California’s AT-PZEV standard.
- NGVs are as safe as or safer than traditional gasoline or diesel vehicles.
Natural Gas as a Transportation Fuel is Growing
- According to the American Public Transit Association, nearly one-fifth of all transit buses were run by compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquid natural gas (LNG) in 2011. Currently, transit buses are the largest users of natural gas for vehicles.
- The fastest growing NGV segment is waste collection and transfer vehicles. Almost 40% of the trash trucks purchased in 2011 were natural gas powered.
- More than 35 airports in the U.S. have natural gas vehicles in their own fleets or have policies that encourage use by private fleets operating on premises, making this sector the third largest in vehicular natural gas use.
- The successful Clean Port Initiative in Southern California is spurring adoption of similar policies in other ports on both coasts.
- NGV Global, the international NGV association, estimates there will be more than 50 million natural gas vehicles worldwide within the next 10 years, or about 9% of the world transportation fleets.
Worldwide NGV Statistics
According NGV Global, the number of NGVs in use worldwide by the end of 2011 had grown to 15.2 million. Global NGV sales—according to Pike Research —are expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.9% to reach 19.9 million vehicles by 2016. NGVs have been most successful in the Middle East and Latin America, especially so in countries that lack a high capacity to refine oil.
The U.S. currently ranks 17th in the world with less than 1% of total NGVs. However, North America is expected to see some of the fastest growth due to abundant proven reserves and the low cost of domestically produced natural gas.
According to the Gas Vehicle Report, these are the top ten countries.
||Number of Vehicles
||% of Total NGVs Worldwide
Use of natural gas as a transportation fuel is growing
- Industry data shows that vehicular natural gas nearly doubled between 2003 and 2009. In 2010, natural gas displaced more than 350 million gasoline gallon equivalents each year.
- Transit buses now account for about 62% of all vehicular natural gas use.
- According to the American Public Transit Association, 26 percent of all new transit bus orders in 2009 were for natural gas. According to the association, in 2009 about 18 percent of transit buses run on natural gas.
- Waste collection and transfer vehicles, which account for about 12 percent of total vehicular natural gas use, are the fastest growing NGV segment
- More than 35 airports in the U.S. have natural gas vehicles in their own fleets and/or have policies encouraging use by private fleets operating on premises, making this sector the third largest with about 9 percent of total vehicular natural gas use.
- The successful clean port transportation initiative in Southern California is spurring adoption of similar policies in other ports on both coasts.
- The International Association of Natural Gas Vehicles estimates that there will be more than 50 million natural gas vehicles worldwide within the next 10 years, or about 9 percent of the world transportation fleets.
Benefits of NGVs
Making America less dependent on foreign oil is a national priority. President Obama, in March of 2011, set the goal to reduce foreign oil imports by one-third in a little over ten years. We’re now on track to achieve this goal. The U.S. imported 11 million barrels of foreign oil a day when Mr. Obama took office, a number which has since fallen to 8.4 million barrels a day.
An important part of Obama’s plan is a commitment to invest in the research and development of natural gas as a vehicle fuel. Unveiling his energy blueprint in Las Vegas, Obama said, "We got to have an all-out, all-in, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every source of American energy—a strategy that is cleaner and cheaper and full of new jobs." As part of that effort, the White House fact sheet issued at that time states, “The President’s plan includes: proposing new incentives for medium- and heavy-duty trucks that run on natural gas or other alternative fuels; launching a competitive grant program to support communities to overcome the barriers to natural gas vehicle deployment; developing transportation corridors that allow trucks fueled by liquefied natural gas to transport goods; and supporting programs to convert municipal buses and trucks to run on natural gas and to find new ways to convert and store natural gas.” For more on Obama’s energy blueprint, click here.
Congress, too, strongly supports reducing petroleum use and has passed laws that provide incentives to Americans who switch to alternative fuel vehicles. For a list of both federal and state incentives, click here.
While the U.S. imports more than 47% of the oil it uses, 98% of the natural gas used in the U.S. was produced in North America. Every gallon equivalent of natural gas used in vehicles is one less gallon of petroleum that has to be imported.
Exhaust emissions from NGVs are much lower than those from gasoline and diesel vehicles. For example, the natural gas-powered Honda Civic Natural Gas has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the cleanest commercially available, internal-combustion vehicle. The California Air Resources Board rated the Civic Natural Gas to meet the stringent AT-PZEV standard. In gasoline vehicles, evaporative and fueling emissions account for a significant portion of the emissions associated with operation. NGVs, on the other hand, produce little or no evaporative emissions during fueling and use.
Replacing a typical older in-use vehicle with a new NGV provides the following reductions in exhaust emissions of
- Carbon monoxide (CO) by 70%–90%
- Non-methane organic gas (NMOG) by 50%–75%
- Nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 75%–95%
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) by 20%–30%