As of 2019, there are over 28 million natural gas vehicles (NGVs) across the world, almost 225,000 of which are in North America. These NGVs are powering economies and transporting people across land and sea—and engineers are continuing to find new ways to harness natural gas and change the way we travel and do business.
Peoples Gas is proud to be at the forefront of this innovation, helping both municipal governments and private businesses convert vehicles from diesel and gasoline to natural gas. From buses to garbage trucks, we’re taking clean energy to the streets.
But just how big of an impact can natural gas vehicles make? Read on to learn about four advantages of NGVs that explain why more and more communities and companies are choosing to make the switch.
What are Natural Gas Vehicles?
Natural gas vehicles (NGVs) are fueled by compressed natural gas. They function similarly to a gasoline engine but are more efficient and better for the environment. NGVs come in a few different types:
- Dedicated (mono-fuel) NGVs. These use compressed natural gas exclusively for fuel.
- Bi-fuel. These NGVs have two fueling systems—one for natural gas and one for gasoline.
- Dual-fuel. Dual-fuel engines, which are typically reserved for heavy-duty long-haul vehicles, use a mix of natural gas and diesel. Diesel is used for ignition and as a support for natural gas energy.
- Tri-fuel. A relatively new innovation, tri-fuel vehicles can use a mix of natural gas, ethanol, and gasoline.
Compressed natural gas (CNG) is just what it sounds like—it’s a form of natural gas that’s been pressed down to take up less than 1% of its original volume. CNG, along with RNG (renewable natural gas) and LNG (liquefied natural gas) are all used as gasoline-alternative fuel sources for trains, trucks, ships, and almost every type of long-haul vehicle you can think of.
Now that you know the lingo, let’s jump into the four advantages of NGVs.
#1. Natural Gas Vehicles Are Better for the Environment
Compressed natural gas emits less CO2 (carbon dioxide) per mile than gasoline and diesel. Dedicated NGVs, which use CNG as their only source of energy, also produce less carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and non-methane organic gas than diesel vehicles.
CNG is also safer for groundwater sources and doesn’t carry the same risk of contamination as underground gasoline tanks because CNG can just evaporate into the air.
#2. NGVs Are Cost-Effective & Good for the Economy
Crude oil and petroleum products are expensive—and we use a lot of them here in the US. In 2017, the US was averaging almost 20 million barrels of petroleum products per day. Those products include elements like jet fuel, asphalt, medications, and, of course, gasoline for transportation. In 2015, the US spent almost $1 billion on oil.
With vehicles fueled by CNG, organizations open up more opportunities to save in the short term and the future.
- Save on fuel costs. CNG is consistently the lowest priced fuel source when stacked against competitors, like gasoline and diesel. Peoples Gas helped Hillsborough County’s HART bus line save millions of dollars in fuel by switching to natural gas.
- Tax credits. Companies can save even more by applying for natural gas tax credits when filing federal taxes.
- Reduce unscheduled maintenance. It’s simple: natural gas is resilient and reliable. CNG is a cleaner-burning fuel and generates less wear-and-tear on some engine components, which reduces unplanned maintenance issues and costs. Fewer unplanned maintenance issues—and taking vehicles off the road less—supports more reliable operations like steady schedules and routes that businesses and their customers depend on.
Peoples Gas believes that investing in NGVs can benefit our local and national economies. From creating jobs to saving money, facilitating business, and more, NGVs can move people and products more efficiently than gasoline vehicles.
#3. They Reduce Our Dependence on Foreign Oil
Around 85% of the natural gas we use is produced right here in the United States, helping to significantly reduce our dependence on foreign oil. By converting more petroleum vehicles to natural gas, NGVs are helping to create more American jobs, benefiting our local communities economically.
Fueling vehicles with natural gas sourced domestically helps to keep fuel costs low, too. There’s more to gas prices than what you pay at the pump—fuel prices are often influenced by global factors, meaning costs can skyrocket when there are delays along international shipping routes. Producing our own fuel also allows us to avoid expensive importing and shipping costs.
#4. CNG Engines Are Quieter & Emit Less Odor
Dedicated natural gas engines are less noisy than their gasoline-only counterparts and also produce less odor. That’s a plus for busy urban environments that may struggle with noise pollution and smells produced by city traffic and large vehicles like buses, trucks, and street cleaners.
Part of the reason why is that NGVs emit less carbon dioxide, which can have a very distinct smell when produced in large amounts. Dedicated NGVs also have a smoother injector process than gasoline vehicles, reducing engine noise and making it easier to hear the birds even in a bustling city.
Natural Gas in Action: Innovating with Tampa HART Buses
While natural gas makes up 30% of energy usage in the United States, just 0.2% of that fuel is being used for transportation. We’re working to change that, one city at a time.
As part of our commitment to expand the access to and use of natural gas to benefit our local communities, Peoples Gas partnered with the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) to convert a portion of Tampa’s public transportation system to compressed natural gas.
HART’s new CNG buses are quieter, more cost-effective, and rely on American-produced gas fuel, which is better for the environment than foreign-sourced gasoline. By 2023, converting their fleet from diesel to CNG will have saved the county an estimated $2.5 million in fuel costs. The switch has also cut greenhouse gas emissions from their municipal buses and vans by 252 tons per year.
At Peoples Gas, we hope to bring more of that same innovation to people and companies all around Florida.
Learn More About What Natural Gas Can Do
Transportation isn’t the only industry that can benefit from natural gas innovations. To learn more, check out other entries on our blog, like how companies and organizations across Florida are investing in sustainability by switching to natural gas. You can also read how Florida’s Energy is dedicated to values like safety, resiliency, and creating jobs in our local communities.