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Is CNG a Game Changer for the Trucking Industry?

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A recent report from Navigant Research claims that commercial natural gas vehicles (NGVs) will become increasingly common within the next ten years. The study cites America’s abundant supply of natural gas and the increasingly stringent fuel economy standards as the driving force for the growth.

The study also notes that lack of refueling stations is the largest obstacle to widespread adoption of natural gas. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) there are currently 813 CNG fueling stations in the United States.

What does this mean for the industry in general? It probably doesn’t mean a whole lot in the short term. Most trucking companies will not be able to afford the initial investment of equipment and thus not qualifying for the incentives offered by the DOE to offset the cost.Even with the expanding infrastructure the stations tend to be on major routes and do not account for vast parts of the country. Smaller trucking companies and owner operators rely on longevity and reliability. A NGV engines life span is a third of the life of a diesel engine and maintenance costs are substantially increased by the fact that very few repair facilities are equipped to diagnose and repair this equipment.

Currently Cummins is the only manufacturer for Class VIII NGV engines. The same engine options are available in Volvo, Freightliner and Paccar trucks. This does not offer much hope for competitive cost reductions. Most manufacturers will wait to see how fast the NGV market will expand before making such a large investment.

As with any technology the costs will drop and the products will improve over time. So, is CNG the future of the transportation industry? We will have to wait and see.

For More information about Alternative Fuel Incentives visit the U.S. Department of Energy.

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