Many light-duty fleets are interested in the benefits of alternative fuels but fewer can afford the up-front costs of implementation.
The issues around alternative-fuel use are typically two-fold for light-duty fleets, particularly those that rely on pickup trucks:
- Light-duty vehicles, mainly battery-electric or hybrids, don’t have the capacity, aren’t available as light trucks, or don’t have the functionality and utility of gasoline vehicles.
- The cost to upfit the vehicles and implement a traditional fueling infrastructure is cost prohibitive.
But there is an alternative fuel that delivers both capabilities without breaking the budget.
Adsorbed natural gas (ANG) uses activated carbon monoliths from hardwood sawdust —technology which is also the backbone of decades of innovation for automotive gasoline vapor emission control — with performance characteristics that enable the material to more efficiently capture and release vapors compared to coal alternatives. These unique characteristics ultimately make natural gas useable fuel for bi-fuel light-duty vehicles and bring several benefits to light-duty fleets, including:
- Can be stored compactly in the bed of a pickup truck
- Operates using only 900 psi - as opposed to 3,600 psi for compressed natural gas (CNG) - which enables the use of low-pressure fueling, requiring only an easy-to-install, affordable fueling appliance and eliminating the need for a massive CNG fueling station
- Holds twice the fuel storage as empty cylinders filled with CNG at the same reduced pressure
- Provides a reliable bi-fuel solution as a supplement to gasoline
- Allows fleets to control fueling that optimizes the use of natural gas, realizing the economic and environmental benefits of using renewable natural gas, while also enhancing fleet productivity
Because ANG can use the same CNG hardened valves and lines, fleets can run newly ordered pickups through an OEM’s ship-thru process, expediting order-to-deliver and maintaining the automaker warranty.
Show Me the ROI
The up-front acquisition cost of an ANG appliance is less than 10% of the cost of even the lowest cost CNG station. For a small 4-truck fleet of ANG vehicles, for example, the two necessary fueling appliances would cost $5,000, compared to the $50,000-$60,000 price tag to build the required CNG infrastructure. ANG vehicles see a return on investment (ROI) of less than five years.
Largely this is due to a fleet’s ability to take advantage of currently available federal subsidies. In some cases, ROI can be attenuated even further to less than a year if the fleet qualifies for an alternative fuels incentive grant. Additionally, existing fuel tax incentives offer a rebate of $0.50 per gasoline gallon equivalent.
For fleets that may not qualify for a federal grant, the fuel savings alone — on average about $2,000 per year per vehicle — will realize an ROI on that up-front vehicle investment in about five years. You’ll be saving that $2,000 during the life of the vehicle no matter what — it’s money that goes directly to the bottom line.
ANG’s ‘Secret Sauce’: an Appliance as Infrastructure
One of the biggest challenges in using CNG for most fleets, no matter their size, is the cost of the infrastructure. CNG station installation can cost as much as $1 million.
Alternatively, ANG infrastructure consists of a simple appliance. Because the technology operates at lower pressures, ANG fueling appliances cost about $2,500. Considering the one-time appliance cost without any additional grant money increases the ROI timetable by about a year.
The fueling appliance also provides fleet owners with the flexibility to redeploy vehicles to different markets since the fueling appliance can be relocated at a low cost, in contrast with CNG vehicles that are tied to an immobile CNG station. There is even the opportunity to integrate the low-cost ANG fueling appliance into an existing CNG infrastructure.
Once the appliance is paid off, you’ll receive the benefit for years to come. Your ANG supplier can help you determine the number of appliances needed based on the number of fleet vehicles, their duty cycles, and other operational factors.
Beyond appliance installation - which is much less complicated than a standard CNG station – ANG’s significantly lower operating pressures make operation and maintenance simpler.
In addition to the hard dollars and cents savings, fleets will also realize other soft or indirect ROI benefits. Because ANG trucks are bi-fuel, they benefit from the same range as a gasoline or diesel vehicle and an additional 100 miles of natural gas, eliminating range anxiety and allowing drivers to focus on their job and not worry about whether they’ll have enough fuel to make it back to base. Studies show natural gas vehicles reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% compared to gasoline and in excess of 100% when using renewable natural gas as a vehicle fuel.
As you navigate the alt-fuel decision-making process, you’ll need the expertise of and confidence in your fueling partner. Specialty-chemical and activated carbon technology provider Ingevity provides both, and is committed to helping you find the right solution for your fleet — and that may not be ANG. We recognize that as the alt-fuel menu expands, there is no one-size-fits-all fuel for every operation. We’ll help you analyze your fleet to determine what fits best.
To learn more about ANG and if it’s the right fit for your fleet contact us at ANG@ingevity.com.
Originally posted on Automotive Fleet