Natural gas vehicles (NGVs) are a significant untapped opportunity for vehicle operators seeking to lower costs, reduce emissions and play a role in North American energy independence. Utilizing a fuel that is widely available and reliably used by millions of consumers across our continent NGVs have been slow to catch on due to the our region’s limited fueling infrastructure and the up front costs associated with NGV purchases or conversions. This paper identifies key success stories in the Northwest that are overcoming these hurdles while identifying modest and temporary policy incentives that can hasten regional NGV adoption.
In 2011 the average American spent a record $4,000 on gasoline, more than 8 percent of typical take-home pay. This figure was matched by Canadian consumers and does not include the increased costs of goods and services passed along by businesses to offset rising transportation expenses. Beyond dollars and cents, transportation alone accounts for over a third of our region’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Alternative transportation fuels like natural gas will do much to alleviate both of these problems – helping fleet and vehicle owners save money on fuel while reducing impact on the environment. Deploying NGVs in the Pacific Northwest will have numerous economic benefits: stimulating on-going investment and job creation due to new vehicle sales or conversions and the development of infrastructure associated with natural gas fueling stations. Furthermore, the clean burning qualities of natural gas reduce greenhouse gas and smog causing emissions dramatically when compared with conventional transportation fuels.
The convenience of the status quo may be the greatest barrier to broader NGV adoption; however, a number of initiatives exist to overcome market inertia. These include: the development of tax incentives for new vehicle purchases or fueling infrastructure, continued support for programs that promote fleet conversion and allowing regulated utilities the option to invest in this growing market on a voluntary basis.
To accelerate the adoption of NGVs in the region and create a market for new fueling infrastructure our region should first focus on encouraging conversion (or replacement) of fleet vehicles from diesel to compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG). Fleets can use a central fueling station, enjoy the quickest economic advantage and be anchor tenants that support the development of additional fueling infrastructure. Parallel efforts that focus on public fueling infrastructure along the region’s highways will provide opportunities for public adoption as we grow toward natural gas powered transportation corridors to, and through, our region.
The Pacific Northwest’s support of NGVs and the accompanying fueling infrastructure – via policies and financial incentives – serves the greater public good by growing jobs, decreasing air pollution, improving public health and keeping dollars in the region.
Looking for a quick overview of what an NGV is? In 2011 we released a four part white paper covering the basics:
A brief discussion of the current state of NGV use in North America.
The NGV Primer
Looks at how NGVs operate, their many advantages, and existing hurdles to their more widespread deployment.
NGV Success Stories
Highlights expanding NGV usage and development efforts by industry and government, locally and across the globe.
NGV Policy and Opportunties
Explores next steps to “prime the pump” for expanded NGV use.
Published: June 4, 2012
Last Updated: April 26, 2013