NACFE releases report on the viability of fleets fueled by natural gas

March 30, 2024. The North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) released a report on natural gas and its potential role in decarbonizing the trucking industry. The report shared key factors that fleets should consider when exploring the viability of alternative fuel in their fleet.

NACFE challenges fleets to consider the switch by looking at three main factors: regulations and emissions mandates, alternative fuel comparisons, and economic considerations.

The NACFE report references EPA’s new emissions standard for vehicles beginning in model year 2027, which states that NOx emissions must be reduced from 0.2 g/bhp-hr to 0.035 g/bhp-hr. That’s a reduction of more than 85%. The report also references the proposed reductions in Phase 3 of EPA’s Clean Trucks Plan. The goal of the proposed rule is to reduce emissions from medium-duty trucks by 50% and reduce emissions of Class 7 and 8 vehicles by 27% for 2032 model year vehicles.

While these regulations are taking place on the federal level, individual states are also passing their own emission-reducing regulations. California is leading the pack with the Advanced Clean Trucks rule, which requires that 5% to 9% of all manufacturers’ vehicle sales be zero-emission vehicles starting this year. An additional 16 states and the District of Columbia have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding supporting the deployment of ZEVs across the country.

Despite being a cleaner fuel than diesel, these regulations will also have an impact on natural gas. The NACFE report states that the EPA emissions standard for 2027 model-year vehicles will have no direct impact on natural gas vehicles; however, the rule’s impact on the cost of diesel engines—due to more complex requirements—will reduce the cost difference between the two engine types. This will help put natural gas on a more level playing field with diesel.

Further, natural gas engines can help OEMs meet EPA’s proposed Phase 3 requirements because “the net CO2 benefit of natural gas is on the order of 13% to 18% lower than diesel from a well-to-wheels standpoint,” according to the report.

Where natural gas falls short with upcoming regulations is with the California ACT rule, as they will not comply with the ZEV mandate, the report states. However, if a natural gas engine is paired with a hybrid, “it can qualify as a near-zero emission vehicle,” and “fleets will be able to purchase 50% of their ZEV required vehicles with a hybrid/natural gas product,” according to the report.

NACFE dedicates nearly 13 pages of its report to the summarization of different fuel types and their advantages and disadvantages.

The report also covers the economics of integrating natural gas into a fleet, and NACFE stated that some fleets have saved money after integrating natural gas into their fleet.