At this week’s IAA in Hanover, the major commercial vehicles trade fair, Scania premiered its long-distance coach fuelled by liquified natural gas (LNG).
As cities across Europe rally to curb emissions and carbon-conscious operators follow suit, gas is increasingly seen as the simplest alternative to diesel.
“Some ten years ago, I was convinced this breakthrough would come; it’s just meant being patient,” says Zoran Stojanovic, a gas vehicles expert at Scania. “Now we’re seeing more and more applications for gas and sales are really taking off.”
He credits the proliferation of gas-powered vehicles to the rapidly expanding fuelling infrastructure for LNG and CNG, compressed natural gas. The first LNG filling station in Germany was, for example, recently opened and this year Italy has gone from a single LNG station to twelve. With greater filling opportunities, more customers are considering purchases of gas vehicles.
“Don’t ask me what comes first: the hen or the egg,” Stojanovic remarks. “The infrastructure and fleet must grow in parallel; we need to keep eggs heated while feeding hens.”
Strong city growth
CNG vehicles are showing the strongest growth and for example Madrid recently ordered 460 new buses, of which 184 from Scania. This huge investment has been made in preparation for the city’s 2025 diesel ban.
With cities in the forefront of the shift to gas, more vehicle applications need to become available, according to Stojanovic. “Servicing cities not only involves supplying buses, distribution trucks and refuse trucks. We tend to overlook the fact that growing cities require a host of daily service; houses will be built, streets and roads maintained and sewage system improved. Scania has recently introduced a gas-powered tipper truck but we will also in the coming years need the entire range of construction vehicles with gas tanks.”
Larger market for gas vehicles
An encouraging development is that as gas vehicles become more commonplace, operators can expect greater residual value. There is, in short, a larger market for these trucks and buses.
In phasing out fossil fuels, switching to LNG and CNG is seen as an intermediate step in reducing carbon emissions by some 20 percent. However, these is a vast potential for expanding CO2 free biogas production through anaerobic digestion of organic waste, explains Stojanovic. In Sweden, for example, fuel pumps at filling stations now have an 85-percent biogas share.
“As biogas production takes off, we can blend in more and more renewable fuel. Many countries are already producing biogas earmarked for heating and generating electricity rather than for transport. Favourable taxation of this clean fuel could certainly speed up transition.”