Gas Vehicle Info
The European Union (EU) has set the target of increasing the share of biofuels and so-called alternative fuels, including natural gas, in traffic to 10 and 20 %, respectively, by 2020. EU defines the second generation biofuels as biofuels with a high level of greenhouse gas emission savings produced from materials not intended for human or animal consumption, i.e. cellulosic biomass feedstock, wastes and by-products from industry, agriculture and municipalities. The gaseous vehicle fuels, namely upgraded biogas (biomethane) and compressed natural gas (CNG), offer an environmentally friendly alternative to the other vehicle fuels in use today: In several life cycle assessments, biogas production has been found to be among the most environmentally benign and energy efficient means of producing vehicle biofuel from waste resources, whereas the use of natural gas as vehicle fuel also decreases the carbon dioxide emissions of vehicles by about one fourth compared to those of traditional petrol fuelled cars. Also the emissions of particles and several gaseous compounds of highest concern in terms of city air quality are very low in gas fuelled vehicles compared to those using petrol or diesel.
Biomethane and CNG can be used in the same vehicles, and in the same storage, transfer and fuelling systems, and hence their use and supply support each other. Availability of biomethane filling stations brings a very environmentally friendly alternative at hand for the users of gas vehicles. The expansion of the network of CNG filling stations and increase in the number of gas vehicles creates new markets for the potential producers of biogas, especially in areas outside the reach of the natural gas pipeline, where filling stations for biomethane expand the operating span of gas fuelled vehicles. At the same time, CNG functions as an important backup solution for biomethane during market build-up and in the event of production failures.
There are now 10 million gas driven vehicles operating mainly on CNG worldwide, whereas the use of biomethane as vehicle fuel is still relatively new. There are currently several non-technological barriers, gaps and challenges retarding the widespread use of biomethane and CNG in vehicles in Europe. Particularly for biomethane as a transport fuel there are unfavourable and/or inadequate policies, standards and regulations in most European countries. Biomethane use for electricity generation is in most countries incentivised through the issue of green certificates and other tradable allowances, while no direct incentives exist for biomethane used as a transport fuel (with the exception of EU targets for biofuels and national laws ratifying these). Other challenges to the market expansion of natural gas and biomethane are the chicken-and-egg problem of vehicle adoption and infrastructure build-up (the limited number of filling stations), and there are also issues with fleet operator attitudes, general unawareness and preferences towards alternatively fuelled vehicles (various studies have documented that private fleet operators are reluctant to adopt these vehicles for various reasons, including perceived lower reliability, need for specific training of staff for their operation and maintenance, and the absence of an established second-hand market). Another major market barrier to be overcome is political, convincing critics about the synergistic market effect of a mixed supply of natural gas and biomethane. Especially larger fleets along with heavy vehicles and municipal services and utilities should be addressed in the near future as there is a great and unused potential.