Natural gas seems to be moving from infancy to adolescence

Sept. 17, 2014

With the natural gas powered vehicle market moving from infancy to adolescence, ACT Research has released the results of its updated research on US natural gas transportation fuel trends in the heavy-duty truck market. Additionally, the report details the impact of today’s trucker-favored market, in which focus is placed more on acquiring capacity than on lowest total cost.

 The report finds that in 2014 natural gas powered trucks continue to grow in unit sales and production, though at a rate proportional to the outsized growth of the overall heavy truck market. This inline growth falls below earlier expectations of a more rapid adoption. Nevertheless, sales for 2014 are now expected to total 11,000 units, up 27% from 2013.

 As part of the ACT study, trucking industry leaders looked to the longer term future of natural gas as a vehicle fuel. The study’s conclusions offer insights based on extensive field interviews, research, and analysis. Answers to questions such as the winning fuel (CNG or LNG), directions in new engine technologies, pricing, and other issues on the minds of stakeholders were addressed and refreshed in this analysis. Participants in the study ranged from manufacturers, suppliers, fleet operators, the fueling industry and other companies interested in the direction of natural gas as a commercial vehicle fuel.

 The resulting 50-plus page report details what has happened, surprises along the way since ACT’s groundbreaking 2012 report, and where the industry is headed over the next 20 years.

 “Expectations have fallen from our initial analysis,” says Ken Vieth, ACT Research’s Senior Partner and General Manager. Factors contributing to the shifting ROI results include the price of diesel and meaningful improvements in overall fuel economy. Additionally, the stubbornly high price gap between natural gas and diesel powered vehicles and the still early stage infrastructure build out remain impediments.

 “There must be a cooperative investment strategy developed between shippers and truckers to overcome some of the natural gas adoption roadblocks. The chicken-and-egg issue of infrastructure is being solved, albeit slowly, but the price of natural gas powered equipment still needs to be addressed, and this won’t be solved overnight. That’s why we call it an evolution and not a revolution.”

 ACT’s study is now in the rebuttal phase and participants are being asked to comment on the preliminary findings, with the full report scheduled for release on September 30. Anyone interested in learning more about the project or about becoming a rebuttal participant may contact ACT Research at 812-379-2085 or via email at [email protected].