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 our clean, inexpensive, and abundant natural gas as a vehicle fuel. Natural gas vehicles (NGV) are good for our economy, our environment, and your bottom line. Whether you are 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 135,000 NGVs on U.S. roads today and more than 15.2 million worldwide.
- There are about 1,300 NGV fueling stations in the U.S., and refueling appliances are available for home use.
- 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 to $2.00 less per gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE).
- In the U.S. alone, NGVs offset the use of about 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.
Benefits of NGVs
Natural gas is a clean alternative fuel that is both less expensive and more environmentally friendly than diesel or gasoline. Whether in the form of compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG), this domestically produced fuel offers many economic, environmental, and policy benefits.
Natural gas vehicles typically cost more than gasoline or diesel vehicles. This is due to the cost of high-pressure and insulated fuel tanks, which are necessary to store CNG or LNG. However, the cost of natural gas fuel is now $1.50 to $2.00 less per gallon. The savings in fuel costs can translate into significant savings over the life of a vehicle, depending on fuel efficiency and the number of miles driven. The greatest savings are currently being seen in heavy duty, high mileage fleets. These vehicles consume enough fuel for owners and operators to see a pay back in as little as 18 to 24 months. As the price of fuel tanks comes down, light duty passenger vehicles will become less expensive and also will enjoy a shorter payback period.
Making America less dependent on foreign oil is a national priority. President Obama has set the ambitious goal to cut net oil imports by half by the end of the decade. An important part of Obama’s strategy is to invest in alternative fuels, including natural gas for vehicles. In the Blueprint for a Clean and Secure Energy Future Fact Sheet, the President outlines his commitment to partnering with the private sector to adopt natural gas in the Nation’s trucking fleet. This includes establishing “a credit for 50 percent of the incremental cost of a dedicated alternative-fuel truck for a five-year period; supporting research to ensure the safe and responsible use of natural gas; and funding to support a select number of deployment communities.”
Congress also 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 percent of the oil it uses, 98 percent 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 (CARB) 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.
- Carbon monoxide (CO) by 70 to 90 percent
- Non-methane organic gas (NMOG) by 50 to 75 percent
- Nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 75 to 95 percent
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) by 20 to 30 percent
Natural Gas as a Transportation Fuel is Growing
- According to the American Public Transit Association, about one-fifth of all transit buses were run by compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquid natural gas (LNG) in 2012. Currently, transit buses are the largest users of natural gas for vehicles.
- The fastest growing NGV segment is waste collection and transfer vehicles. Almost 50 percent of the trash trucks purchased in 2012 are powered by natural gas.
- 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 NGVs worldwide within the next 10 years, about 9 percent of the world’s transportation fleets. The U.S. currently ranks 17th in the world with less than 1 percent of the NGVs in use. 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.