Natural Gas Fleets

bus at a CNG station
Bus at a CNG fueling station

Parts/Contexts:

Any region with large natural gas reserves.

Keywords:

natural gas vehicles, NGVs, compressed natural gas, CNG, liquid natural gas, LNG, fleet vehicles, trucks, buses, cars

Predecessor Patterns

. . . Regions with large supplies of natural gas can help reduce foreign oil consumption with Natural Gas Vehicles. The largest potential for those are fleet vehicles, such as trucks, delivery vans and buses.

Problem Summary

Because light weight vehicles can utilize many sources of power, and because natural gas fueling stations are often scarce, the biggest potential untapped group of NGVs are fleet vehicles.

Analysis

Light weight NGVs such as cars, pickups and SUVs can be powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), but in many regions and countries, such as the US, the availability of light weight NGVs is scarce. (In fact, the only production NGV auto available in the US in 2008 was the Honda Civic GX.) In these same areas, therefore, CNG fueling stations are relatively rare compared to gasoline stations, because the demand isn't there. In 2008 there were only about 1300 CNG fueling stations in the US. While light weight NGVs can reduce foreign oil dependence, so can electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, and part of the electricity could come from local renewable resources such as wind and solar power.

In contrast to light weight vehicles, heavier vehicles such as trucks and buses are impractical to power with electricity, because they are too heavy and the weight to power ratio is too big. You can't run an 18-wheeler on batteries. Therefore, the most viable alternative to petroleum fuels, gasoline and diesel, for medium and heavy weight vehicles is natural gas.

Another factor that makes natural gas the best alternative fuel for heavier vehicles is that they are mostly owned by fleet operators. Therefore, if CNG fueling stations are scarce, fleet operators can install their own CNG fuel pumps at depots where maintenance is already centralized. As light weight NGVs become more popular, these depots could sell CNG to the general public.

Because heavy long haul trucks operate far from their home bases, they aren't suited to CNG, especially where CNG stations are relatively scarce, such as in the US. Therefore liquid natural gas (LNG) is more practical than CNG for over-the-road trucking, because so much more gas can be stored in a small volume enabling them to travel further without stopping to refuel. Still, LNG powered trucks have to refuel sometime, so trucking companies could install their own LNG stations along major shipping routes.

Fleets of medium and heavy weight NGVs could radically reduce foreign oil dependence. For example, in the US there are about 2 million big rig trucks which use about 25% of its oil imports, and switching them to natural gas would be a huge dent in foreign oil dependence. Other heavier vehicle fleets that could run on CNG include delivery trucks and vans, garbage trucks, transit and school buses, shuttle services, construction vehicles like bulldozers, and farm equipment (both for large farms and co-ops of small farms). Operators of light weight vehicle fleets could also replace gasoline and diesel vehicles with NGVs including taxis and municipal public works vehicles.

Solution Summary

Therefore:

Concentrate on producing natural gas vehicles (NGVs) for fleets, especially fleets of medium and heavy duty vehicles like trucks and buses. Install CNG fuel pumps at the fleet depots, and LNG stations along major long haul trucking routes.

Successor Patterns

(none) . . .


References/Sources

  1. Natural Gas Vehicle at Wikipedia.
  2. NGVAmerica
  3. Commercial Natural Gas Vehicles at greencar.com.

Author/Date

Gary Swift, 07 November 2008.
Last updated:

Sponsored by

http://www.DesignMatriX.com