From 8 to 24 September, natural gas vehicles produced at the factories’ assembly lines drove across European cities. The outcome of this major event aimed at drawing attention to such environmentally friendly, cost-effective, safe and affordable car fuel as natural gas was 6700 miles, 17 days, 30 cities, and 11 round tables.
The rally organized by Gazprom and E.ON Ruhrgas, and supported by European gas companies, automakers, the European Business Congress and European and national NGV associations, featured cars, trucks and buses operating on compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG). Round table discussions were held in Moscow, Minsk, Warsaw, Ostrava, Prague, Paris, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Berlin and Poznan.
Natural gas is a new, environmentally friendly and cost effective solution for the transportation industry. The 40% growth in global gas car park for the last two years is the most convincing proof of its advantages.
The economic benefits of gas use in car engines are obvious. At current prices, spending 10 euros on fuel, the European car owner can travel 103 kilometers on petrol, 164 km on solar oil, or 220 km on CNG. The environmental benefits are also impressive: a gas engine produces 25% less CO2 emissions compared to a petrol engine, 95% less nitrogen oxide emissions compared to a diesel engine, and almost no emission of particles. The Euro-6 standard, which will be introduced in Europe in 2013-2014, will entail additional restrictions for most of the diesel and gasoline vehicles. Consequently, costs for owners of such vehicles will rise. Gas vehicles, however, meet these requirements today.
However, as the round table participants noted, there are a number of pressing challenges for the NGV industry to be able to adequately contribute towards achieving Europe’s environmental objectives.
First, there is need to develop a network of filling stations in relation to major transport corridors, especially combined CNG/LNG filling stations, to unify gas measurement units (kilogram or liter) and filling adapters, to simplify car servicing at filling stations as much as possible, and to introduce convenient payment systems. Automakers and sellers, on their part, even with a product line of gas-powered modern and reliable cars, are yet to stimulate consumers to buy their cars. Part of this problem is solved from the bottom: gas suppliers develop their fleet of natural gas vehicles that are under lease. Thus, the user can independently assess the advantages of gas and make this fuel a “live advertising”.
National governments, whose competence is to develop not only environmental strategy and energy strategy, but also a tax strategy, can play an important role. The attractiveness of the industry and the recoupment period of NGV vehicles will directly depend on the level of excise taxes on certain fuels for several years. Predictability is exactly what potential customers expect from the tax policy. Local authorities in many countries have realized the benefits of gas on city and municipal transport. Europe has already adjusted 13% of buses and 15% of public utility vehicles to run on gas.
Moreover, what can and should be done jointly by gas companies, automakers, consumers and national authorities and regulators is to inform consumers and the public about the advantages of natural gas as a motor fuel. This is precisely what is being done by the “blue corridors”, which are for the sixth time being laid out on the gas-engine-powered Europe.
LNG World News Staff, October 02, 2012; Image: Gazprom Export