There could be more than 25 million light-duty natural gas vehicles (NGV) on the road worldwide by the end of 2019 when annual NGV sales are projected to reach 3.2 million, according to a report issued Wednesday by Navigant Consulting's Boulder, CO-based Pike Research unit. There are currently slightly more than two million NGVs around the world.

Pike is including as light duty (LD) NGVs both passenger cars and light-duty pickup trucks, along with SUVs, vans and light commercial vehicles. The report was written by senior analyst Dave Hurst and Research Director John Gartner.

Hurst said Pike's overall analysis envisions the global growth of these NGVs despite the continuing lack of a wide variety of NGV models and the lack of fast and cost-effective public and at-home fueling facilities. "Infrastructure remains a key concern in many countries, but it is clear that the low cost of natural gas, combined with geopolitical forces, will expand the market for these vehicles."

The Asia Pacific region will continue to be the largest regional market globally for NGVs, but NGVs also will grow at a "healthy rate" for North America, with a compound annual growth rate of 10.2% from now through 2019, Hurst said.

Pike's report, "Light Duty NGVs" analyzes global market opportunities for NGVs in both the passenger car and pickup truck space, assessing those light-duty vehicles current market, fuel availability, demand drivers, policy factors, and technology issues tied to NGV growth for the consumer and fleet markets. The report breaks down the global market into five regions -- North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East/Africa.

There are big differences between individual nations within regions. For example, in Europe NGV adoption is concentrated in nations like Italy and the Ukraine, and in Latin America, Argentina and Brazil account for 25% of the world's NGVs now on the road.

Pike identified four main drivers globally -- economic benefits, environmental benefits, fuel/vehicle availability and energy security. "The low cost of natural gas in comparison to gasoline or diesel allows the incremental costs for vehicles to be recovered, and LD NGVs will typically have a lower cost of ownership than a comparable gasoline vehicle," the report noted.

Market growth forecasts overall point to the light duty truck and passenger car NGVs growing at a compound annual average rate (CAGR) of 6.2% during the next eight years. That translates into a cumulative total of 25.4 million light-duty NGVs on the road in 2019. Pike noted that LD NGVs make up nearly 97% of the overall NGV market (2.08 million or 2.15 million vehicles) worldwide this year.

"Many governments have promoted the growth of NGVs, either by offering reduced taxes on the vehicles or by increasing investment in refueling infrastructure," Hurst said.

Separately, a unit of General Electric is working with private sector and university scientists to develop a home NGV fueling system that can cut refueling time down to just an hour under a U.S. Department of Energy grant (see related story).

©Copyright 2012 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in any form, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.