Because trucks and buses use significant amounts of fuel and tend to emit high levels of greenhouse gases, natural gas vehicles are increasingly attractive options in these commercial markets.
At the same time, the rebounding construction industry is pushing growth in the overall truck market while cities and municipalities look to expand their public transit systems.
According to a recent report from Pike Research, a part of Navigant's Energy Practice, sales of natural gas trucks and buses will expand steadily over the remainder of the decade.
More than 930,000 of these vehicles will be sold worldwide from 2012 to 2019, the study concludes.
"Natural gas 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 a natural gas vehicle is typically recovered, due to lower fuel costs, within two to seven years."
NG trucks typically run on compressed natural gas because their tanks weigh less and are less costly than those for liquefied natural gas. LNG trucks, however, are increasingly used as longer-range vehicles (400 miles or more compared to 150 to 300 miles for CNG vehicles) and are seeing higher growth rates than CNG trucks (17% versus 14% in heavy-duty trucks).
The worldwide breakdown of refueling stations for these two types of natural gas is 117 LNG refueling stations versus 20,233 CNG refueling stations. About 45% of the LNG refueling stations are located in the United States, even though China has the largest annual sales for LNG-fueled trucks, with 3,020 vehicle sales in 2012.
The report, "Natural Gas Trucks and Buses", analyzes the global market opportunity for natural gas vehicles in the medium- and heavy-duty truck and bus markets. The report provides a comprehensive assessment of the current market, fuel availability, demand drivers, policy factors, and technology issues associated with the growth of these vehicles.