Falling energy prices are currently discouraging truck buyers, who have to do the math on the incremental capital costs associated with compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) powered units. But many industry experts still feel that natural gas still remains a very viable replacement for diesel fuel from a long-term perspective.

“Lower diesel prices are tempering excitement for natural gas,” noted Wall Street investment firm Stifel Nicolaus & Co. in its transportation earnings preview report issued last week. “But natural gas engines may be the future, particularly if oil prices rebound.”

The firm added that larger carriers are particularly positioned well to reap the cost-saving benefits of switching to natural gas once economic justification becomes clearer cut, all else being equal.

Right now, Stifel said natural gas will only represent about 2% of heavy duty tractor engines for 2014 and it remains “unclear” whether that number will be higher in 2015.

Yet a new report from consulting firm Navigant Research projects that sales of all models natural gas vehicles (NGVs) – cars and light trucks on up through heavy-duty commercial units – are still expected to grow from 2.3 million units annually in 2014 to 3.9 million by 2024. 

The firm said increasingly stringent fuel economy and tailpipe emissions standards in major automotive markets in particular will spur more NGV sales.
Read American Trucker Editor-at-Large Sean Kilcarr’s full report on FleetOwner.com.