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Annual worldwide sales of natural gas vehicles will jump 68 percent to 3.2 million vehicles in 2016 from 1.9 million in 2010, according to Pike Research. The surge, says Pike, will be driven mainly by fleets looking to cut petroleum dependency and reduce operating costs.

In the U.S., annual natural gas vehicle sales will almost quadruple to 33,000 vehicles in 2016, up from an estimated 8,400 in 2012. Among individual countries, India will overtake Iran as the world's leading user of natural gas vehicles by 2016. Oil-rich Iran will apparently turn more and more to natural gas as a fuel because using petroleum means that the nation would turn less profit from selling the crude to foreign countries.

Even if the U.S.' use of natural gas does quadruple, it will continue to account for a near-meaningless percentage of worldwide natural gas vehicles. This, says Pike, is due to a lack of infrastructure. As of September 1, there were an estimated 946 operational natural gas fueling stations in the U.S., compared to 3,200 public-access electric vehicle charge points and nearly 125,000 gas stations. Lack of infrastructure aside, the fact that only one production passenger vehicle sold in the U.S. is capable of burning natural gas – the 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas – is quite a bottleneck.
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Commercial Fleets Will Power Natural Gas Vehicle Market through 2016

September 14, 2011

There are currently about 12.6 million natural gas vehicles (NGVs) in use worldwide, and sales of NGVs vary widely from region to region and country to country. The majority of NGVs are located in Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa, particularly in countries like Pakistan and Iran that lack extensive gasoline refining capacity. In North America, due largely to a lack of convenient refueling stations, demand for NGVs is largely relegated to the fleet market. Worldwide sales of natural gas vehicles are expected to grow rapidly over the next five years, to 3.2 million units annually by 2016 from 1.9 million in 2010, according to a recent report from Pike Research. The consumer market will continue to lag growth in commercial fleets, however: three-quarters of the new growth between 2010 and 2016 will come in corporate and government sales.

As a portion of the worldwide total, the percentage of commercial NGVs will rise from 59% to 65% in that period, according to senior analyst Dave Hurst.

"Many manufacturers and industry observers are looking forward to the time when consumer NGVs become the next big thing," says Hurst. "But the number of refueling stations remains too low for the consumer market to really take off in many parts of the developed world."

One solution to the current inadequacies in NGV infrastructure is the spread of bi-fuel vehicles. Popular in Latin America, where almost 90% of NGVs have bi-fuel engines, these vehicles can run on either gasoline or compressed natural gas (CNG).

India, which has one of the largest fleets of CNG buses in the world, is expected to overtake Iran for the lead in NGV sales by 2014. By 2016 there will be 612,000 NGVs in India, according to Pike Research's analysis. The strongest growth, however, will occur in the United States, where a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.4% will result in nearly 33,000 vehicles sold in 2016.

Pike Research's report, "Natural Gas Vehicles", provides a comprehensive examination of natural gas vehicle technologies, compressed and liquefied natural gas shipping and storage, governmental incentives and regulations, and key drivers of market growth. The report includes forecasts of NGV sales, refueling infrastructure, and natural gas usage through 2016 for light-duty vehicles and medium/heavy duty trucks and buses. Key market players are also profiled. An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the firm's website.

Pike Research is a market research and consulting firm that provides in-depth analysis of global clean technology markets. The company's research methodology combines supply-side industry analysis, end-user primary research and demand assessment, and deep examination of technology trends to provide a comprehensive view of the Smart Energy, Smart Grid, Smart Transportation, Smart Industry, and Smart Buildings sectors.