Alt fuel ‘reality check’: Cheaper diesel drives down interest in natural gas

natural-gas1-e1360770052339The recent slide in the price of diesel — and the prospects of that trend to continue — have caused trucking’s interest in natural gas to wane some, and as a follow-up to a 2012 report, ACT Research released this month another look at natural gas use in Class 8 trucks.

The report, dubbed “NG Reality Check: Moving from Infancy to Adolescence,” still predicts the alt fuel to grow, although slower than previously anticipated.

ACT was bullish in its 2012 report about the prospects of nat gas use in trucking, reflecting “the enthusiasm of the moment,” it says. Development of natural gas products, however, has been slow to materialize as the price spread between diesel and natural gas has shrunk in recent years.

The adoption curve for natural gas, however, is still expected to reach 23 percent of units sold by 2025. That would put the number of natural gas trucks sold that year at about 50,000 units.

“That’s a large quantity that will be shared by those with an understanding of tomorrow’s truck transportation needs and plans to get there,” Vieth says. “Depending upon the emissions and greenhouse gas needs of the nation and the regulations put in place in coming years to achieve those needs, NG penetration could even be higher since NG is equally available and is a cleaner, cheaper (CPM) fuel than diesel.”

The report provides forecasts, insights and supporting analysis on major trends already taking place such as:

  • NG engine technologies (spark, HPDI, dual fuel)
  • NG fuel preference (LNG, CNG, DME)
  • Infrastructure design (fuel only to full service and fuels)
  • Emerging infrastructure investors and early NG adopters
  • ROI adjustments as fuel cost spreads and up-charges change
  • MPG versus CPM (cost per mile)
  • Shipper-trucker relationships from contracts to diesel fuel surcharges to going green
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