Navigant Research released a report on light-duty natural gas vehicles, analyzing the global market for natural gas passenger cars and light duty trucks, including pickup trucks, SUVs, minivans, and vans.

In some countries, such as India, China, Thailand, and Brazil, a robust market for natural gas vehicles (NGVs) already exists. In others, such as the United States and Germany, NGVs are a relatively small niche. During the last few years, however, a number of major automakers have refocused their efforts in the NGV market, and growth in this category is expected to be strong across all regions in the coming years.

“Growth in the market for natural gas vehicles is being driven by increasing supplies of low-cost, readily available natural gas, along with expanding refueling infrastructure and increasingly strict vehicle emission requirements,” said John Gartner, research director with Navigant Research. “As a result, the total number of NGVs on roads worldwide will reach nearly 40 million in the next 10 years.”

Like all internal combustion engine vehicles, NGVs are undergoing technical change. In particular, the introduction of direct injection promises to increase fuel economy and reduce emissions, according to the report. The direct injection of natural gas has been a challenge in the past, due to poor ignition characteristics and challenges managing natural gas in the combustion cylinder, but automakers in Europe are planning to launch vehicles using the technology beginning in 2014.

The report "Light Duty Natural Gas Vehicles" also provides an analysis of the market issues and drivers associated with light-duty NGVs, including refueling availability, gas storage cylinders, total cost of ownership, vehicle availability, and government influence. Global market forecasts for vehicle sales, vehicles on the road, and fuel used, broken out by region, segment, and drivetrain, extend through 2023. The report also examines the key technologies related to natural gas storage on vehicles, as well as the major players within the market.