Natural Gas Vehicles

Sales of natural-gas powered big rigs could jump as much as fivefold this year as falling prices for both natural gas and the carbon fuel tanks required for such trucks come down, the Wall Street Journal says.

Lowe's, Procter & Gamble, UPS and PepsiCo are among the major US companies that have gone on record saying they're expanding their fleet of trucks that can run on either compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG). For instance, UPS is buying 1,000 natural-gas trucks by year-end, and P&G, whose fleet is about seven percent natural gas, is looking to boost that figure to 20 percent by 2015. FedEx wants 30 percent of its long-distance trucks to be powered by natural gas by 2023, while engine makers like Cummins Westport and Volvo are adding products to the market. As a result, as much as five percent of new heavy-duty trucks may be natural-gas powered in 2013, up from about one percent last year.

CNG sells for about $1.50 a gallon, less than half the $3.87 price of diesel last week. That means that, even with a carbon fuel tank boosting the price of a $120,000 rig by another $40,000 or so, a trucker that typically gets about six miles a gallon and drives about 100,000 miles a year, could pay back the extra cost in about two years. Already about 60 percent of new garbage trucks in the US will be natural-gas powered this year. Those drivers will be helped by an expanding network of CNG stations across the country. Autoblog's got more on natural-gas trucks here.