Worldwide sales of natural gas vehicles (NGVs) are expected to grow rapidly over the next five years, to 3.2 million units annually by 2016 from 1.9 million in 2010, according to a recent report from Pike Research.
The consumer market will continue to lag growth in commercial fleets, the firm says. Three-quarters of the new growth between 2010 and 2016 will come from corporate and government sales.
‘Many manufacturers and industry observers are looking forward to the time when consumer NGVs become the next big thing,’ says senior analyst Dave Hurst. ‘But the number of refueling stations remains too low for the consumer market to really take off in many parts of the developed world.’
One solution to the current inadequacies in NGV infrastructure is the spread of bi-fuel vehicles. Popular in Latin America, where almost 90% of NGVs have bi-fuel engines, these vehicles can run on either gasoline or compressed natural gas (CNG).
India, which has one of the largest fleets of CNG buses in the world, is expected to overtake Iran for the lead in NGV sales by 2014. By 2016, there will be 612,000 NGVs in India, according to Pike Research's analysis. The strongest growth, however, will occur in the U.S., where a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.4% will result in nearly 33,000 vehicles sold in 2016.
There are currently about 12.6 million NGVs in use worldwide, and sales of NGVs vary widely from region to region and country to country. The majority of NGVs are located in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.