A new report from Pike Research forecasts steady growth in the market for natural gas trucks and buses. Annual worldwide sales of these vehicles will more than double over the next seven years, the firm says, growing from less than 70,000 in 2012 to more than 180,000 in 2019.

Almost 1 million of these vehicles will be sold from 2012 to 2019, the study concludes.

As many governments and businesses seek ways to reduce the fuel costs and emissions of their fleets of trucks and buses, natural gas has become an increasingly appealing option for these commercial vehicles, the forecasters note. Natural gas vehicles can help fleet operators reduce fuel costs and lower emissions while, at the same time, developing natural gas refueling infrastructure that will serve the consumer market as well as other fleets.

"Even if current low prices for natural gas rise, fleet operators remain keenly interested in protecting themselves from the high cost of diesel fuel," says senior research analyst Dave Hurst. "This market is being driven by several key sectors, in particular refuse trucks, utilities, transit, and, to a lesser degree, construction. As those sectors grow, the fortunes of natural gas trucks and buses will follow suit."

Growth in natural gas trucks and buses will be strongest in the Asia Pacific region, according to the report, outpacing global growth. China's market for compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks will be strong, and China will lead the liquid natural gas (LNG) truck segment with 94% of the market. LNG trucks in the United States are expected to grow faster than any other natural gas vehicle segment.

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. An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the Pike Research website.