Researchers: Natural gas vehicles will see rapid rise globally through 2023

HOUSTON — The number of light-duty vehicles running on natural gas will more than double over the next decade to 39.8 million traveling on roads worldwide, according to a new report by research firm Navigant.

Despite the rapid growth, natural gas will continue to have a modest market share compared to gasoline and diesel in 2023, fueling just 2.6 percent of the cars and light-duty trucks on the road, Navigant projects.

A significant number of natural gas vehicles are already on the road in Brazil, Pakistan, Argentina and India, the report notes. But popularity is growing in North America, as well, driven by the relatively low price of natural gas and stricter vehicle emissions rules.

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Navigant forecasts that the fueling stations and other infrastructure to support natural gas vehicles in North America will double by 2023. 

Still, growth in China and many Western European countries will be even more rapid, the research firm projected. Navigant forecasts 138,177 light-duty natural gas vehicles will be sold in North America in 2023, compared to 1.9 million in the Asia-Pacific market.

“North America, despite the excitement surrounding newly available natural gas, is likely to remain a comparatively small market,” the report says.

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North America’ natural gas vehicle market is fundamentally different than in other parts of the world. While private consumers are driving growth in Western Europe, Latin America and Asia, demand in North America largely comes from commercial fleets.

As a result, instead of supplying the market with factory-built natural gas vehicles, manufacturers largely are relying on vehicle conversions in the North America. Cars and trucks manufactured to run on gasoline or diesel later are outfitted to run on natural gas.

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