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May 28, 2024
Natural Gas’ Role In Decarbonizing Trucking

Natural Gas’ Role In Decarbonizing Trucking

From Executive Director Mike Roeth

Late in March we released a confidence report on natural gas, Natural Gas’ Role In Decarbonizing Trucking.

What we discovered is that natural gas is a fuel that has the potential to help reduce total GHG emissions and also has advantages when it comes to reducing the more immediate and local health effects caused by air pollutants like NOx and PM.

While natural gas has been used in combustion engines for decades, currently there is a renewed interest in using it in transportation because it is a lower-carbon fuel than diesel and is cleaner burning. In the past few years, the capacity to produce RNG has grown significantly which is spurring more interest in it.

There are many financial considerations that fleets need to take into account when looking at natural gas. We suggest that fleets compare natural gas to diesel and other alternatives, including battery electric, from a variety of standpoints. It is important to remember that it can take five to 10 years for fleets to see payback from their investment in natural gas vehicles and its accompanying infrastructure. During that time, we think there are likely to be significant improvements in battery electric vehicles which will offer many benefits to fleets. If you’ve invested in natural gas, you may not be able to pivot to take advantage of the benefits of battery electric vehicles.

One development that may boost  interest in natural gas is Cummins’ new X15N, the first fuel-agnostic version of the company’s next generation 15-liter engine. Another area of interest is renewable natural gas, which is generated from various feedstocks. When made from animal waste, RNG can have a negative carbon intensity.

We see natural gas as part of the trucking industry’s Messy Middle and as with all powertrain technologies currently available, natural gas powertrains should only be put into use in duty cycles where they make sense. We are currently in a time where there is no one-size-fits-all powertrain option for every fleet in every application given the increased focus on decarbonizing trucking.

We expect this latest Confidence Report to provide insight for fleets considering natural gas powertrains and allow them to analyze both the benefits and the challenges before making a decision.

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