Natural Gas is a Strong Alternative in Certain Use Cases

CNG remains a reliable solution for specific applications

Penske CNG tractor.

Natural gas, one of the early leaders in the alternative fuels category, remains a reliable alternative for specific applications and can help fleets achieve cost savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Natural Gas Vehicle Sales

The State of Sustainable Fleets 2023 report found that compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle sales remain steady, and new vehicle options continue to enter the market. Overall, the U.S. Department of Energy reports that natural gas powers more than 175,000 vehicles in the U.S. and roughly 23 million vehicles worldwide.

According to ACT Research, the existing natural gas Class 8 tractor market has been running historically at just over a 2% adoption rate and is expected to increase to just over 7% in 2027. ACT Research predicts natural gas-powered Class 8 tractor adoption rates will level off at about 8% by 2030 and remain in that range for the 2030-2040 forecast horizon.

The National Council for Freight Efficiency has said that natural gas can help reduce emissions as the country transitions to battery and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles powered by clean energy.

Natural Gas Fueling Station

Fleets can only commit to natural gas-fueled vehicles once they can ensure a fueling network. The Department of Energy reports 769 public CNG stations and 50 public liquified natural gas (LNG) stations nationwide. There are even more stations operated by private fleets.

CNG dispensers do not require special equipment. LNG dispensers deliver fuel to vehicles at pressures of 30 to 120 PSI. Because LNG is stored and dispensed as a supercooled liquefied gas, protective clothing, face shields, and gloves are required when fueling a vehicle.

Natural Gas Maintenance Facilities

CNG Class 8 trucks have many of the same components as their diesel counterparts, but their maintenance needs differ. Natural gas vehicles can only be repaired in facilities that accommodate the fuel. Facilities that perform CNG maintenance must meet building safety standards provided by the National Fire Protection Association. Working on CNG vehicles requires additional technician training and possible certifications because there is new vehicle componentry. Penske Truck Leasing has several natural gas maintenance facilities.

Natural Gas Technology

Original equipment manufacturers are continuing to invest in natural gas technologies. For example, Cummins has rolled out its 15-liter natural gas engine, X15N, designed for Class 8 long-haul applications, and Walmart is testing the technology.

Natural Gas Use Cases

CNG tends to work well for fleets with specific and dedicated routes that are predictable and repeatable. It also works well within certain mileage ranges. Penske Truck Leasing has experience with natural gas vehicles for full-service truck leasing and commercial truck rental customers and can work with fleets to identify use cases where the fuel makes sense.