Low prices of natural gas make LNG an economically viable fuel for heavy-duty trucks without government incentives, according to a report by IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates.
Unlike light-duty vehicles, the report says, heavy-duty trucks travel repetitive, long-distance routes, allowing operators to generate large savings on fuel quickly. And the regular traffic over the same routes with high amounts of fuel per truck makes supplying LNG economical for retailers.
Heavy-duty truckers can take advantage of retail LNG prices that in April were as low as $1.70/gal of diesel-equivalent, compared with diesel prices expected to average $3.91/gal over the next 5 years.
The price difference makes heavy-duty vehicles that can burn LNG as fuel, which cost $40,000-75,000 more than diesel-fueled trucks, economical, the report says.
IHS CERA says LNG heavy-duty trucks could recoup initial costs in 3 years without government incentives. The greenhouse-gas intensity of LNG is 7-15% less than that of diesel on a well-to-wheels basis, the report says.
Hurdles to LNG use in heavy-duty trucks include a lack of LNG retail outlets, uncertainty over future governmental support, and the need for new training and logistics. Also needing study, the report says, are hardware maintenance, availability of replacement parts, and the long-term durability of cryogenic fuel tanks.
IHS CERA expects major fleet operators, likely to be the first to use LNG vehicles, to gradually increase their purchase of trucks able to use LNG gradually during the next 2-4 years.
“Entry of natural gas vehicles into the heavy-duty truck fleet will take some time,” says Rafael McDonald, IHS CERA director, global gas and LNG. “Natural gas is a cheap and abundant fuel, and its use in the long-haul trucking provides a significant competitive advantage.”