Gas powered vehicles are already popular throughout Asia, but could they be a solution for fleet operators under pressure to eliminate carbon emissions?

Back in February 2017, Waitrose announced the launch of its new 10-vehicle CNG powered fleet. They had teamed up with CNG Fuel, Scania and Agility Fuel solutions to develop the new trucks, which are used to make deliveries to stores in the UK. The trucks were the first in Europe to store the gas at 250 bars of pressure, increasing the range of trucks from 300 to 500 miles.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is an alternative fuel source to Petrol and Diesel. Upon burning, it produces fewer undesirable emissions than alternatives. CNG is produced by compressing natural gas, which is predominantly formed from methane. The Waitrose trucks run entirely on Biomethane, a fully renewable CNG fuel. Biomethane can be up to 40% cheaper than diesel and emits 70% less CO2.

The new trucks are 50% more expensive than current diesel models. However, the trucks are expected to repay the costs in 3 years, with fuel savings of up to £20,000 a year. Operators expect the Waitrose fleet to outlive diesel counterparts by at least 5 years and save 100 tonnes of CO2 a year. Today, the vehicles are a success and others seem to be following the trend.

In March 2016, the UK’s first High-Pressure natrual gas filling station was introduced near junction 28 on the M6. Its biggest customer today? Waitrose.

The station is powered by CNG Fuels and recently underwent independent analysis, commissioned by Cadent – the UK’s largest gas network. According to the report, switching from diesel to CNG significantly reduces CO2 emissions by 84%. Cadent also found that when Biomethane is used, Nitrous Oxide emissions fell by up to 99 percent. This could be the solution that fleet operators need to tackle the Government’s Commitment to reducing emissions by 80% in 2050.

“CNG is an affordable option for decarbonising heavy goods vehicle transport and lowering emissions” – David Parkin, director for network strategy at Cadent.

When compared to current electric equivalents, CNG is a cut above, offering cheaper fuels and infrastructure, longer mileage and renewable energy sources. In a race against time, could Natural Gas be the solution that the Government is looking for?

Fleet operators are under pressure to plan for the eventuality of a diesel and petrol ban and the rising costs of carbon-emitting vehicles. CNG is certainly a good option, but lower mile-ranges than current vehicles mean developments must be made. Fleet Management technologies are already proving to make significant improvements in the range of fleet vehicles, so could a combination of the two be the answer? For now, companies such as Waitrose and CNG Fuels are taking promising steps in the right direction.