A natural gas advocacy group has developed a detailed formula to calculate how much trucking fleets would save by converting from diesel-fueled vehicles to natural gas vehicles.
The tool marks the latest effort by the Drive Natural Gas Initiative to move the country away from crude-based transportation fuels, touting compressed natural gas as a cleaner and cheaper alternative.
Using specific fleet characteristics like vehicle cost, miles driven, and maintenance charges, the calculator determines a company’s total cost of operating natural gas vehicles. It also calculates how quickly the lower natural gas fuel cost makes up for the higher vehicle price.
“With the opening of shale gas plays, there’s this new abundance of domestic gas and the price for North American natural gas is significantly lower on an energy basis than petroleum,” said Executive Director Kathryn Clay. “We can see it at the pump today.”
The calculator, formatted as a spreadsheet, takes into account everything from financing terms to personnel training to state incentives for natural gas vehicles. It also uses fuel prices on an energy equivalent basis, with diesel running at a national average of $4.40 and compressed natural gas at $2.14 per diesel gallon equivalent.
For instance, the tool calculates that a fleet of 10 small delivery trucks that travel 71 miles a day would cost $72,543 each over their lifetime running on diesel. Their natural gas version would cost $50,072.
Currently, there are about 1100 compressed natural gas stations across the country and about 100 more are sprouting each year, Clay said. She hopes announcements by Shell and GE will spark more rapid development of natural gas fueling stations.
“Once you have that backbone along interstates across the country, each of those stations become hotspots where growth can occur,” she said.
The tool is available via a link on the American Gas Association website here.