Thanks to increased domestic production and a period of relative market stability, gas prices have been dropping across the country. Still, no matter how low the price at the pump goes, fueling up with compressed natural gas will almost always be a better value. Those who own a vehicle that can run on the alternative fuel pay an average of $1.70 less per gallon than those who use standard petroleum. Of course, not many people out there own a natural gas-powered car. Like electric autos, high price tags and infrastructure issues have prevented the vehicles from catching on in a major way.
But for those in the natural gas game, the wider consumer market isn’t a main priority just yet. For the last few years, the industry has been targeting truckers and towers rather than go straight for the mainstream. The idea is to entice work drivers to switch to natural gas by promising big savings on fuel. Manufacturers are also trying to ease fears that drivers could be stranded if they run out of natural gas and can’t find a place to refuel. New models of trucks made by companies like NGV Motori USA and Renzo can be run on both diesel and natural gas, allowing the vehicle to switch between sources if one becomes depleted.
Despite benefits like these, trucking companies aren’t racing to make the switch to natural gas. That’s because heavy-duty trucks that run on natural gas tend to cost $50,000 more than their diesel counterparts, which already carry a hefty price tag of about $150,000. What’s more, it can take up to four years for a truck to offset these costs through fuel savings. Most large fleets replace their vehicles every three to four years anyway, thus making natural gas power appear even more unnecessary. Plus, fuel costs simply aren’t that big of a concern for many truckers: hauling companies typically pass on fuel costs to their customers. Nevertheless, as the years go by and it becomes cheaper to manufacture natural gas-powered cars, the market momentum could finally swing away from petroleum in the trucking industry.
- What key factor keeps trucking firms from using more natural gas vehicles?
- Will the price of gas have an effect on the growth of natural-gas vehicles?
Source: Bob Tita, “Slow Going for Natural-Gas Powered Trucks,” The Wall Street Journal, August 25, 2014; Bob Lukefahr and Balu Balagopal, “Forget Electric Cars. Natural Gas Is Powering Vehicles in Texas,” The Wall Street Journal, September 26, 2014. Photo by: Mike Mozart.