3 Factors That Will Drive Natural Gas Vehicle Adoption in the U.S.

Source: Clean Energy Fuels.

It's estimated that one in five transit buses in service today runs on natural gas. In fact, all buses in Los Angeles County -- more than 2,000 total -- use natural gas supplied by Clean Energy Fuels. The fleet saves the city over 300,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions every day, saves over 600,000 GGEs every year, and has reduced particulate matter by 80% compared with diesel buses.

Driving force No. 2: Energy content

While abundance keeps prices low, boasting high energy content doesn't hurt, either. Consider that premium gasoline has an octane rating of 91, while CNG can be as high as 130. In other words, if natural gas had an octane rating equivalent to regular gasoline, current market prices would "surge" to nearly $3 per gasoline equivalent gallon.

The high energy content of natural gas fuels makes it possible for automakers such as General Motors not to compromise on driving range with NGVs despite the early stages of technological development. In fact, CNG offers slightly better fuel economy than gasoline for bi-fuel vehicles (cars and trucks capable of using both gasoline and natural gas fuels). Take the 2015 bi-fuel Chevy Impala as an example. The vehicle's gasoline tank offers 18.9 miles per gallon, but its natural gas tank offers 19.5 miles per gallon. General Motors is also using NGVs to not only match, but also boost, driving ranges. The 2015 bi-fuel Chevrolet Silverado offers a combined driving range of 650 miles -- more than double the range of the previous year's gasoline-only model -- while the Impala offers nearly 500 miles combined. Drivers have to make only minor sacrifices when it comes to cargo space.

Driving force No. 3: Environmental footprint

It gets better. Higher energy content means increased engine compression, which means higher efficiency (thanks to the chemical makeup of natural gas) and a greatly improved environmental footprint. According to EQT Corporation , natural gas fuels offer the following emissions reductions over petroleum-based fuels:

  • Particulate matter emissions by as much as 77%.
  • Nitrogen oxide emissions by as much as 94%.
  • Volatile organic compound emissions by as much as 55%.
  • Carbon monoxide emissions by as much as 90%.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 29%.

Couple reduced tailpipe emissions with natural gas fuels produced from biogas , and NGVs look substantially greener than gasoline vehicles.

Foolish bottom line

Let's be honest: It will take many years for NGVs to make a splash in the market. However, concerted commercial efforts and investments are being made throughout the value chain, from natural gas drillers to suppliers to automakers. Investors will have to endure the short-term ups and downs associated with any emerging market, but they should be comforted in the long-term opportunities being solidified with big, bullish bets made today.

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The article 3 Factors That Will Drive Natural Gas Vehicle Adoption in the U.S. originally appeared on

Maxx Chatsko has no position in any stocks mentioned. Check out hispersonal portfolio,CAPS page, orprevious writing for The Motley Fool, or his work forSynBioBeta to keep up with developments in the synthetic biology industry.The Motley Fool recommends Clean Energy Fuels, Ford, and General Motors and owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days . We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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