Fleet owners and operators across America rely on a wide variety of vehicles powered by domestically produced natural gas that is both economical and clean-burning. Natural gas vehicles (NGV) use proven, reliable technology to take advantage of our country’s abundant natural gas reserves. The low cost of natural gas, combined with unprecedented public and private investment, has led to significant market growth and more vehicle and fueling options than ever before.
NGVs enjoy significant economic advantages over comparable diesel and gasoline vehicles. NGVs have a higher incremental cost due to the expense of specialized fuel systems and fuel tanks, but the low cost of natural gas fuel relative to diesel and gasoline means there is a short payback period before realizing significant savings over the lifecycle of the vehicle.
The positive economics of NGVs are here to stay. With the commercial development of shale gas production, the price of domestic natural gas decoupled from the price of diesel. Independent studies now show NGVs capturing significant market share of both the light and heavy duty vehicle markets. The National Petroleum Council (NPC), under an “aggressive” scenario, predicts NGVs will capture 50 percent of the light duty market, upwards of 35 percent of the Class 3 to 6 truck market, and almost 50 percent of the Class 7 to 8 truck market by 2050.
The commodity price for natural gas makes up a relatively small portion of the price for CNG and LNG at the pump. A $1.50 increase in the cost of natural gas per million btu translates to only a 25 cent increase per diesel gallon equivalent (DGE) at the pump. Diesel on the other hand suffers price spikes because the raw commodity makes up a much larger portion of the price at the pump. And history has also shown that price spikes in the cost of oil can far exceed the actual supply-demand picture due to international politics and the instability of foreign countries.
Natural gas is the cleanest burning commercially available alternative fuel today, and its use as a transportation fuel is improving the air quality and the health of communities across the country. NGVs significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other smog producing emissions when compared to gasoline and diesel vehicles. According to the Argonne National Lab’s well-to-wheels emissions analysis that uses the latest U.S. EPA figures, NGVs enjoy the following emissions reductions over both new and in-use gasoline and diesel vehicles.
Emissions Reductions (%) of New NGVs Compared to New Gasoline and Diesel Vehicles (2012)
|LD Car||LD Truck||School Bus||Heavy Duty Trucks (v. Diesel)|
|CNG v. Gasoline||CNG v. Diesel||CNG||LNG||LNG Dual Fuel|
Emissions Reductions (%) of New NGVs Compared to In-Use Gasoline and Diesel Vehicles
|LD Car||LD Truck||School Bus||Heavy Duty Truck|
|CNG v. Gasoline||CNG v. Diesel||CNG v. Diesel|
Trucking companies are seeing contracts maintained or won based on their use of NGVs or their willingness to implement NGV programs. This is because the use of NGVs satisfies the emission targets of many public and private fleets, as well as the green initiatives of many companies that rely on the shipment of goods across U.S. roads. Another benefit of NGVs is the simplicity of the fuel system in meeting EPA emission requirements. NGVs do not require any additional (and expensive) components or fuel additives.
Today, there are about 153,000 NGVs on American roads. This number is steadily growing with the expanded availability of OEM and SVM vehicle options. Below you will find a snapshot of today’s NGV count for light, medium, and heavy-duty vehicles broken down by market.
39,500 heavy-duty vehicles
25,800 medium-duty vehicles
87,000 light-duty vehicles (fleet and consumer use vehicles)
Below you will find a list of OEM and SVM vehicle offerings, as well as OEM natural gas engines and powertrains. For a complete list of EPA and CARB approved aftermarket systems, click here.
|Heavy-Duty Truck OEMs
Heavy-Duty Vocational OEMs
Heavy-Duty Bus OEMs
Natural gas fuel comes in two forms: CNG and LNG. The economic and environmental benefits of using natural gas are realized when using either form, but each has unique advantages that make it a better fuel for specific applications. CNG is made by compressing natural gas to 3,600 psi, which is then stored in high-pressure cylinders. For many applications, especially short-haul and return-to-base operations, using CNG is the preferred fuel choice. For many heavy-duty high-mileage applications, LNG is often preferred due to its energy density and improved space requirements. LNG is produced by cooling natural gas to -260°F, which is then stored in insulated tanks. At this temperature, natural gas becomes a liquid and is 600 times more energy-dense than in its gaseous form.
Today, there are more companies and organizations involved in the funding, design, and construction of natural gas refueling stations than ever before. Some of the stakeholders engaging natural gas fueling infrastructure include natural gas retailers, “traditional” fuel retailers, LDCs, E&P companies, large fleets, and leasing companies. This increased activity has led to the development of 1,640 CNG and 123 LNG natural gas stations that now operate in the U.S. These stations are a mix of CNG fast-fill, CNG time-fill, LNG and L/CNG stations that each have applications for which they are best suited.
CNG Fast-Fill and Time-Fill Stations
CNG stations use natural gas delivered to the fueling site by the local gas utility’s underground distribution system and compressed to create CNG. Fast-fill stations use high-pressure cylinders to hold a large amount of fuel on-site that can then be quickly transferred to the vehicle to refuel in a matter of minutes. Fast-fill stations provide a traditional fueling experience and are developed for use by the public and fleet vehicles that need to refuel mid-shift. Time-fill stations compress the natural gas and distribute it directly to vehicles’ onboard storage cylinders. Time-fill stations are less expensive to construct than fast-fill stations and are best suited for return-to-base fleets that park overnight and can fuel at that time.
For a comprehensive look at CNG infrastructure, download the CNG Infrastructure Guide: For the Prospective CNG Developer produced by the Drive Natural Gas Initiative (DNGI).
Most vehicular LNG today is produced at a limited number of plants and trucked to onsite storage vessels. The distance and cost of transporting LNG is a major determinant of the economic feasibility of an LNG station project. However, new LNG production facilities are being developed at strategic locations to serve the transportation market. LNG plant development has also been committed based on demand.
Another application for LNG is L/CNG stations. These stations dispense LNG and have the additional capability of compressing and flash evaporating LNG to produce CNG, which is then stored in high-pressure cylinders for dispensing. This is a good option for locations without pipeline natural gas or pipelines that can’t support sufficient load.
Last Reviewed: December 31, 2015