Confident in the advantages of alternative energy trucks, Shaanxi Heavy-Duty Automobile (Shaanxi Heavy-Duty) recently launched its Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) product lines onto the domestic market, and aims to push annual sales of natural gas trucks to 50,000 within the next three years.
Shaanxi Heavy-Duty projects that natural gas trucks will save around ¥100 ($14.70) per 100 km on fuel costs compared to diesel models with the same loaded weight. According to reports, natural gas models release 90 percent less carbon monoxide, 70 percent less hydrocarbon and 35 percent less hydronitrogen than their diesel counterparts. Liu Keqiang, marketing executive at Shaanxi Heavy-Duty, predicts that China would sell 2,000-3,000 natural gas heavy-duty trucks in the next year. Liu also expects the government’s subsidizing support will have a positive impact on potential clients.
Industry experts identify several factors currently hindering the popularity of natural gas trucks. The sales of the alternative energy models greatly depend on regional natural resources and beckon no increase in areas’ lack of natural gas supply. Meanwhile, the power performance and voyage course of traditional natural gas heavy-duty trucks are still unsatisfying compared to diesel models. There will also be safety concerns considering the relatively new technologies adopted.
However, constant technology upgrades such as those employed by Shaanxi Heavy-Duty have greatly improved the performance of natural gas trucks. The truck maker’s products are powered by natural gas engines with power output at 279 kilowatts. Each of its LNG trucks is equipped with a 450-liter fuel tank, making a 500-kilometer hauling distance approachable. Voyage mileage of 900 kilometers can be achieved if two tanks are installed.
Although domestically made natural gas trucks transcend technology barriers, the promotion of the models relies also on the existence of supporting facilities. Currently, the market for natural gas heavy-duty vehicles is developing much faster in the northwest provinces (including Xinjiang, Shaanxi, Shanxi, and Inner Mongolia) than elsewhere in China. However, actions have been taken to narrow down the geographical disparity. China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) plans to establish 60 natural gas stations in Shenzhen in five years and 30 in Zhuhai in three years. CNOOC also puts several cities including Fuzhou and Zhongshan into the construction list. Once the facilities are established, insiders expect natural gas heavy-duty trucks will experience a greatly expanded market.