The trucking industry is reluctant to add natural gas-powered vehicles to its fleets despite the lowcost and abundant supply of the fuel, according to a recent survey.
Although the majority of the senior executives at 100 industrial freight carriers said they were aware of the technology or analyzing its use, none plan to buy liquefied natural gas-powered vehicles this year, according to a PLS Logistics Services report. The biggest barrier to adoption is a lack of refueling infrastructure, followed by the high cost of LNG vehicles, which run between $30,000 to $50,000 more than diesel-powered equipment. The limitation of LNG-powered equipment to pull as much cargo as diesel-powered engines was also a concern of executives.
Work is progressing to less all three barriers. Clean Energy has raised $450 million to build 150 LNG stations on major trucking corridors. Plus, there is legislation in Congress that would promote tax incentives for LNG equipmentpurchases. President Obama supports the respective Senate and House bill. Manufacturers are also steadily boosting the horsepower of LNG-powered engines.
The survey also found that carriers were under little pressure from shippers to adopt LNG equipment, with just 3 percent of customers pushing for a more diversified trucking fleet.
“This finding is important because it suggests that LNG adoption by motor carriers is not currently on the radar of industrial shippers,” according to the report. “Yet widespread adoption of LNG will reduce costs in the supply chain and generate sustained demand for natural gas drilling.”
A lack of clarity of the cost savings in using LNG instead of diesel fuel was the third largest barrier to adoption. LNG is roughly $1.50 less than diesel per gallon, but a true costcomparison that takes into account maintenance costs and other factors isn’t available. The report concludes that LNG-powered engines could have a majorimpact on the industry within the next several years if a refueling network is built, engine power grows and tax incentives for equipment purchases are made available.
“It is advisable for both carriers and shippers of heavy freight to monitor advances and capitalize on this ground-breaking technology as soon as possible,” the report stated.