‘Galloping’ Said to Be a Better Characterization of Truck Market
The market for heavy duty natural gas trucks is growing at a annual pace of approximately 20%, which is “extraordinary,” says NGVAmerica president Rich Kolodziej, “in a market where change generally comes slowly and the vehicles have a long service life.”
Ron Eickelman, who chairs NGVAmerica and is president of Agility Fuel Systems, reports unprecedented strong demand for the compressed natural gas fuel systems his firm supplies to truck OEMs for factory installation.
The NGV leaders reacted last week to an article in The Wall Street Journal characterizing the natural gas truck market as “crawling” and “in first gear.” Their organizations maintain that operators can see fuel-savings payback in as little as two years, not the four years cited in the Journal.
‘Exuberance Shouldn’t Detract from the Real’
“A lot of us think 20-plus percent growth isn’t crawling,” Eickelman told F&F. He’s seeing increasing competition in the CNG fuel system sector, and notes that Agility’s pact for a new joint venture with fuel cylinder supplier Hexagon Lincoln (F&F, May 6) was a direct response to demand from truck OEMs.
Bob Tita of the Journal cited high capital costs and the improving efficiency of diesels as factors hurting natural gas trucks, which he said had been expected “by some forecasters” to reach 16,000 units this year, well above the currently projected 10,480.
“Some analysts did forecast even faster growth, but their exuberance shouldn’t detract from the real, solid expansion of natural gas trucking,” states an NGVAmerica response to the Journal piece.
“It also is important to note that many of those more optimistic forecasts were done two or more years ago, at which time the natural gas engine that represents the vast majority of the heavy-duty market in 2014 (the Cummins Westport ISX12 G 11.9-liter engine) was expected to be introduced in 2012.
“In fact,” the response continues, “trucks with the bigger version of that engine did not begin entering the market until the fall of 2013 – less than one year ago.”
NGV Sectors Are Thriving
NGVAmerica notes too that some 55% of the refuse trucks purchased in the U.S. last year were natural gas powered, and that “this year that number is expected to grow to 60 or 65%.
“Similarly, 25 to 30% of all public transportation buses on order today are natural gas-powered.”
“When you also consider the growing market for natural gas in medium- and light-duty trucks, light-duty vans, SUVs and cars, and now heavy-duty off-road equipment, rail, and marine applications,” the association concludes, “it may be more accurate to refer to the natural gas vehicle market as ‘galloping along.’”
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Source: NGVAmerica with Fleets & Fuels follow-up