In the worldwide push for more use of natural gas for trucks and buses, liquefied natural gas (LNG) is the fastest growing segment, even though compressed natural gas (CNG) has thousands more fueling stations, according to a new Navigant Consulting energy marketing report..

Nearly half the LNG fueling stations now being developed are in the United States, according to the report by Navigant’s Colorado-based Pike Research unit. Globally there are 117 LNG stations, while CNG fueling stations number more than 20,000, Pike’s report noted.

Pike’s “Natural Gas Trucks and Buses” report provides an investigation of the global market opportunities for both LNG and CNG in the truck and bus fleet space.

“Medium and heavy duty trucks and buses typically use large amounts of fuel due to the combination of low fuel economy, heavy gross vehicle weight and, in some cases, long distances traveled,” said Pike report author Dave Hurst, noting that these characteristics are a marketing opportunity globally for natural gas vehicles (NGV).

Pike’s analysis envisions 930,000 added NGVs in the truck and bus space worldwide by 2019. Two drivers are identified: a recovering construction sector and expansion of public transit systems.

While noting that typically CNG vehicles have been the preferred natural gas transportation technology because of lower costs and lighter weight tanks, LNG trucks nevertheless “are increasingly used as longer range vehicles [400 miles or longer, compared to typical CNG ranges of 150 to 300 miles],” according to the report.

Increasingly high fuel consumption in trucking and bus fleets is motivating managers to find “strategies to reduce both fuel costs and environmental impact” of their fleets.

“Owing to substantial and rising supplies of low-cost natural gas and the substantially lower greenhouse gas emissions of NGVs, natural gas has become an increasingly attractive choice for a transportation fuel.,” Hurst said.

Pike’s estimate is that the global NGV truck market will grow at a compound annual rate of 14% during the next six years. “This growth is being fueled by economic growth following the global slowdown of the last few years, increased vehicle availability, environmental benefits, and the desire for increased energy security,” Hurst said.

With “heavy duty government investment,” the Asia Pacific region is going to see the most growth, according to the report. Currently about three-quarters of NGV trucks are being sold in the region, and Pike’s report said that is not likely to change. China had the largest number of LNG-fueled trucks sold last year (3,020).

“Europe and North America are also anticipated to see strong growth due to the high costs of diesel fuel and increasingly strict government emission restrictions.”

While giving its assessment — region by region — of the prospects for medium and heavy duty truck and bus NGV markets, the Pike report emphasized that there are a myriad of factors impacting these markets, including availability of fuel, outside demand drivers such as the degree of economic recovery in any given area, government policy differences and technology advances and applications.

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