The International Association for Natural Gas Vehicles or IANGV is holding its 12th IANGV Biennial Conference and Exhibition, NGV 2010 “Creating a Transport Revolution” in Rome, Italy between the 8th and 10th of June 2010. The exhibition will celebrate the successes of the pioneering phase and will leverage those successes to create more in the coming years says IANGV. Among the issues that will be discussed is the increase in OEM vehicle and engine manufacturer participation – currently more than 200 vehicles and models that run on natural gas are available worldwide with at least one new model emerging each week.
More than 50 oral presentations, plus a number of poster presentations, will be on the two and a half day program covering issues such as biomethane (renewable natural gas), standards harmonization, integration of CNG cylinders into OEM platforms, marketing initiatives, emerging technologies, plus national and regional market reviews.
“Until now, natural gas has been ‘the quiet achiever’, proving itself as a transport fuel on a sizeable scale – more than 11 million vehicles in over 81 countries throughout the world. Arguably the best kept secret in fuel alternatives, natural gas vehicles are currently undergoing a revolution, in some countries earning market share that positions natural gas alongside petrol and diesel as a ‘mainstream’ fuel,” says Brett Jarman, executive director of IANGV.
He says that Italy serves as a prime example of the natural gas vehicle revolution, where natural gas vehicles now account for more than 7 per cent of new car sales contributing to more than 130,000 additional NGVs on the road in 2009. “With more than 700 refuelling stations, 600,000 plus NGVs on the road, an outstanding choice of aftermarket conversions and an enviable selection of OEM natural gas vehicles available off the showroom floor, Italians are embracing NGVs in unprecedented numbers,” says Jarman.
The IANGV was founded in 1986 and its current target is to grow the natural gas vehicle or NGV market share to 9 per cent of worldwide vehicle population by 2020, which translates to 65 million NGVs on the road. The IANGV’s methods to reach its goal include government lobbying and policy assistance, providing industry information to members and stakeholders, engagement in the development and harmonization of standards, and organizing industry conferences every two years – such as NGV 2010 in Rome and in South Korea in 2012. The association, together with its network of affiliated regional and national associations, also collects relevant statistical data, facilitates technical information exchange and conducts marketing and industry awareness activities.
The IANGV is keenly aware that for the NGV industry to be commercially viable there needs to be a high level of participation by OEMs. The IANGV has been successful in its quest so far. At its first exhibition held in Sydney in 1988, no OEMs showcased any products – today, industry exhibitions attract all types of vehicles from cars and three wheelers to heavy trucks and buses that run on natural gas.
Explains Jarman: “The automotive and transport sector is currently undergoing unprecedented and exciting change worldwide. Environmental, economic and energy factors have resulted in a global quest for alternatives to diesel and petrol to fuel our vehicles. While the alternatives are many, few can equal the promise shown by natural gas – it’s clean, safe, reliable, versatile, affordable, readily available and even renewable.”
Automotive Industries spoke to Brett Jarman, executive director of the International Association for Natural Gas Vehicles.
AI: You recently have taken over the management of the association from the founding Secretary-General (Garth Harris). How do you envision the future for the association, particularly as it is a reflection of the NGV industry itself?
Dynamic, progressive and growing in size and stature – as you say a reflection of the industry. To be honest, I’ve stepped into my role at the perfect time. Right now the industry is like a runaway train. Even the global economic circumstances of last year couldn’t stop it – they slowed it down slightly but overall NGV numbers still grew by more than 10%. My role is simply to respond to the needs of the industry, to help clear the tracks so the train can keep on running so to speak. Under the circumstances, it will be pretty hard for us as an association to not flourish.
AI: One of the main success elements for NGVs - also for other alternative fuels - is 'government support.' Are NGVs getting the support that is needed from the worldwide political leaders and policy makers?
It’s a mixed bag. In some cases the support is outstanding, in others the support is well intentioned but not necessarily effective and in others still, it’s non-existent.
One of the main issues we have is getting policy makers to understand that NGVs are a ‘here and now’ solution to a number of issues – greenhouse gas and air pollution reductions, enhanced energy security, foreign exchange savings and more. A lot of government energy and funding seems to go toward exploring technologies with long term payback that isn’t assured. NGVs are already proven so diverting those resources to NGVs can deliver the results they are looking for now.
AI: There are many alternative fuels vying for political support and for market entry, (if not dominance among other alternatives). How are NGVs and natural gas doing relative to other alternative fuels such as ethanol, hybrid vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cells?
Hybrids can be fuelled by natural gas so we consider them a complimentary technology rather than an alternative fuel so to speak. Beyond that we don’t claim to be the only solution so it’s natural that each fuel is slowly finding its own niche based on the dynamics of each particular market - fuel supply, cost, government policy etc.
If I had a scorecard though, I would say overall that natural gas is doing better than other alternatives simply because of the vast range of applications it is proving itself in. Included among the 11 million NGVs on the road are motorcycles, three wheelers, forklifts, cars, trucks, buses, tractors, airport tugs, ice resurfacers, refuse trucks, drayage trucks, rail locomotives, and even 150 tonne ‘road trains’ in Australia. We can add to that number the growing number of ferries, fishing boats, cargo ships and other marine vessels. No other alternative fuel, and not even petrol for that matter, can claim the same level of diversity as natural gas. So, while each fuel is finding its own niche, we are finding that our particular niche is quite vast.
AI: Many vehicle manufacturers make NGVs worldwide, OEMs are advertising electric vehicles, hybrids, and fuel flexible vehicles but we don't hear too much from them about their NGVs. Why not? Are the OEMs really serious about selling their natural gas products?
Undoubtedly. I do in fact hear from OEMs almost every day and they are very serious about selling their NGVs. The auto industry just doesn’t have the luxury of being able to make product they aren’t interested in selling.
If you were to mass market NGVs in an immature market without adequate refuelling available, you would find a) that most of your marketing dollar goes to waste and b) that you would frustrate the market by trying to sell them something they can’t use. For that reason the marketing spend will usually be a reflection of infrastructure availability. Electric and hybrid, and to a lesser extent flex-fuel vehicles, can easily be serviced by existing infrastructure so mass marketing for them makes sense.
Where NGVs are concerned, you’ll find the advertising tends to radiate from and be proportionate to fuelling station availability. In Delhi, for example, a very mature market from our point of view, billboard, radio, television and newspaper advertising for CNG is visible every day. In less mature markets, you’ll find the OEMs are focusing either on localized marketing (based on infrastructure locations) or direct business development with commercial fleet operators. This is why I often refer to the industry as being a ‘quiet achiever’.
AI: Another important element of NGV success is support from the natural gas industry. NGVs don't consume as much gas as the big industrial or commercial customers. Have NGVs become part of the 'normal' natural gas markets to take their rightful place along with industrial, commercial and residential sectors of the industry?
You are right; individually NGVs don’t consume a lot relative to some commercial or industry sectors, but collectively the potential consumption is enormous. The other compelling benefit that the gas industry is waking up to is that NGVs can help smooth out load. CNG compressors running at night can produce off peak demand for gas companies. Equally, because transport runs year round, demand continues during the off peak summer season.
To answer your question though, apart from a few small exceptions, NGVs are not yet part of most ‘normal’ gas markets but are rapidly becoming so. One outstanding exception is India, where NGVs are so ‘normal’ that media commentators and public often refer to pipeline natural gas as CNG, simply because that’s the only application they are familiar with.
AI: LNG seems to becoming more popular. Do you see an expanded market for L-NGVs and, if so, where is it most likely to take place and in what types of vehicles?
Yes – North America, Australia, Russia and Korea are probably the most tested markets and their numbers will climb dramatically in the next two years. There’s also promising signs coming from other parts of Europe, particularly UK, Spain, Sweden, and Netherlands. Thailand is also leading the way in SE Asia. In all cases it’s for heavy vehicles. The 150 tonne ‘road trains’ I mentioned earlier are proving that LNG is up to the toughest of challenges.
AI: Many people are promoting biomethane as a renewable fuel to compare to such alternatives as ethanol. How do you see biomethane moving into the NGV market? What are the challenges and opportunities for that sector of the NGV market?
It’s a perfectly natural fit – it puts waste or organic material to good use and often allows NGVs to be used outside of traditional pipeline or virtual pipeline networks.
Probably the biggest challenge is diverting political attention away from biomethane for power generation and towards transport use. From a renewable point of view, electricity can easily be generated from wind or solar whereas transport can’t, except through electric vehicles which have fairly limited applications. Reserving biomethane for transport use guarantees an efficient low carbon, and in some cases carbon neutral, fuel that be used for a huge range of applications. Garbage trucks that are fuelled from their cargo or dairy fleets fuelled by farm based bio-digesters are perfect examples of ‘closing the loop’ on environmental hazards. They are novelties now but there’s no reason why they couldn’t become the status quo. Given that any NGV, and thus any internal combustion engine, vehicle could run on biomethane, the opportunities are limitless.