Gas mobility: a fast-growing use for natural gas and biomethane
Atmospheric pollution, environmental protection, the scarcity of fossil energies and rising cost of traditional fuels are all forcing the transport sector to develop alternatives to fossil fuels that are healthier and more environmentally friendly. Gas mobility is an increasingly important feature for sustainable transportation.
Natural Gas for Vehicles (NGV) is an environmentally-friendly alternative fuel that has seen very rapid growth in recent years. It is particularly suitable for freight transport, passenger transport, utility vehicles and waste collection. In 2020, some 28.5 million vehicles around the world run on NGV, with France alone currently accounting for around 21,500 NGV vehicles.
GRDF is a leading player in the NGV sector in France, helping in the transition to clean mobility throughout the country. Convinced of the major benefits of NGV – particularly of BioNGV, its renewable form – GRDF has signed a public service contract with the French government involving GRDF in many aspects of NGV and BioNGV promotion, ranging from advice for companies and local authorities on converting their fleets to the construction of specialized NGV filling stations.
What are NGV and BioNGV ?
It is exactly the same gas used for heating and cooking that is used as an automotive fuel. The term NGV covers two kinds of fuel based on natural gas: liquefied (known as LNG) and compressed (CNG).
By comparison with traditional diesel fuel, NGV is more environmentally-friendly, emitting 50% less nitrogen oxide (NOx) and 95% less particulates. When biomethane is used – known as BioNGV in the context of transport and mobility – the fuel has the additional advantage of being carbon-neutral because CO2 emitted from the vehicle’s tailpipe is equivalent to the CO2 absorbed in the anaerobic digestion process. It represents a saving of 85% of CO2 emissions by comparison with diesel fuel.
Engines designed for NGV can run on BioNGV with no modification: the two gases have the same properties. As more and more anaerobic digestion facilities are built over the coming years, there will be an increasing proportion of BioNGV in the gas supply. As a result, carbon emissions will continue falling. Our objective is to reach 100% of renewable gas by 2050 with an ambition to decarbonize mobility first.
NGV vehicles have further benefits for the urban environment: they are 50% less noisy than a similar vehicle running on conventional fuel (meaning they are authorized for night deliveries in some urban areas) and they are odorless. Switching to NGV and BioNGV also makes economic sense for fleet operators: on average the fuel costs 20% to 30% less than diesel fuel.
Municipal fleets running NGV vehicles
NGV is a well-established fuel in France. Many local authorities have been using it for garbage trucks for around 20 years. More than 90% of French cities with over 200,000 inhabitants operate fleets running on NGV.
In addition, it is now increasingly used as a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly fuel in public transit systems in a number of cities. The Paris RATP transport network aims to fuel 50% of its buses with BioNGV by 2025. Nantes is another city with an NGV-focused transport policy: 90% of the bus fleet operated by Transdev already runs on the fuel.
In many regions producing biomethane, the circular economy operates effectively. The household waste of 7,000 inhabitants generates enough BioNGV to fuel a bus.
NGV vehicles in the private sector
Companies in the freight transport business and those that provide delivery services face the same health and environmental challenges as local authorities. They are looking for solutions to reduce their environmental impact, perpetuate their business models and improve their image.
The mass retail sector has also started its own energy transition. In France, Monoprix, Ikea and Carrefour are among the growing number of retailers who run their delivery trucks on NGV, while transport specialists, including La Poste, DPD France and Geodis, have also introduced NGV vehicles into their fleets.
There are currently more than 150 NGV filling stations in France, a figure that is expected to double in the next three years. Yet more will be installed over the following two decades, in line with projected figures showing that 60% of heavy trucks on the road in 2050 will be fueled with NGV.
Find here the map of public NGV stations in France
Gas mobility: how GRDF can help
As a specialist in gas and in the energy transition, GRDF provides a full range of support services intended to boost the development of gas mobility. It has dedicated units that work closely with the French authorities as well as with European bodies, with operators of anaerobic digestion plants and all players in the gas supply sector, with vehicle manufacturers, with operators of NGV filling stations, and with owners and operators of fleets, including local authorities and private sector businesses.
GRDF teams can advise fleet operators wishing to convert to NGV on the aids and subsidies available. They can carry out civil engineering studies needed to enable new NGV filling stations to be built and hooked up to the gas grid.