Natural Gas Vehicles

NATURAL GAS VEHICLES (NGVs): An Economical and Clean Alternative

Natural gas can also be compressed and used to fuel the internal combustion engines used in cars, trucks and buses.

  • Reduce carbon monoxide emissions 90%-97%
  • Reduce nitrogen oxide emissions 35%-60%
  • Potentially reduce non-methane hydrocarbon emissions 50%-75%
  • Emit fewer toxic and carcinogenic pollutants
  • Emit little or no particulate matter


Engines powered by natural gas work much like gasoline-powered engines, relying on an internal combustion process, ignited by a spark plug. Heavy-duty NGVs have engines that are compatible with diesel engines. But unlike gasoline or diesel, the fuel is in gaseous form, not liquid, which avoids many of the risks of gasoline as a motor fuel. Its clean-burning characteristics also increase engine life, according to DOE, because NGV engines require less maintenance for problems such as carbon deposits and ring wear.


Natural Gas Vehicles (NGVs) have received a lot of attention lately, but they’ve actually been driven for more than 60 years. Two big advantages NGVs offer over their gasoline-powered counterparts are fuel economy and the reduction of harmful emissions. About two-thirds of the oil consumed by the U.S. is imported, which can make prices volatile. By comparison, almost all the natural gas used in the U.S. is sourced in North America. The Department of Energy’s most recent issue of the Clean Cities Alternative Fuel Price Report indicates that compressed natural gas costs about one-third less than gasoline on an energy-equivalent basis. In addition, NGV’s reduce U.S. oil imports. The American Gas Association reports that in 2008, NGVs displaced almost 300 million gallons of petroleum use.

Natural gas also burns more cleanly than gasoline. NGV CO2 emissions are approximately 20% less than those of gasoline-powered engines. In fact, according to the Department of Energy, NGVs also:


The U.S. currently has about 150,000 NGVs on the road, as compared to 10.5 million natural gas-powered vehicles worldwide. The top five markets for NGVs are Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil, Iran, and India. The strong market performance in those areas is due in large part to low natural gas prices and government subsidies of vehicles, fuel and infrastructure. But U.S. purchase of NGVs is expected to grow significantly over the next decade. Although there is only one production model NGV currently available in the United States, domestic growth in the U.S. is expected to be driven by increased use of NGVs in government and corporate fleets. AT&T, UPS, Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority and several West Coast ports are among the many organizations expanding their fleets with NGVs.


Perhaps the biggest obstacle to widespread, commercial NGV use in the United States is a relative lack of fueling stations (currently fewer than 800 nationwide). New incentives could close that gap dramatically. Both houses of Congress are considering legislation that would extend and expand existing tax credits, as well as create tax credits and incentives to expand the use of NGVs and build more refueling stations. Refueling-station tax credits would be doubled to as much as $100,000, under the Senate bill. The legislation also includes a provision to allow businesses to claim 100% of the cost of building a manufacturing facility placed in service before Jan. 1, 2015. The DOE also lists dozens of other state-level incentives and laws designed to promote use of NGVs.