Natural gas can reduce operating costs for medium and heavy vehicle fleet owners. For the right scale and type of fleet, the all-in cost for a natural gas fleet is below the cost for a comparable diesel fleet. Payback timing depends on the type of vehicle, fuel consumption, and annual mileage.
Natural gas for vehicle use is typically 30% to 40% less expensive than liquid fuels. Part of the savings results from natural gas being a lower-cost commodity compared to crude oil. Another part of the savings comes from natural gas being exempt from federal and provincial fuel taxes. The tax exemptions typically account for less than half of the savings on a cost-per-diesel-litre equivalent basis.
Maintenance costs with natural gas vehicles are similar to those of diesel vehicles. Depending on the engine technology used, vehicle fuel efficiency can either match or be within 12% of the efficiency of diesel vehicles. Factory-built natural gas vehicles have a higher initial cost than diesel vehicles. The higher upfront cost is typically recovered from fuel savings within three to four years. If incentives are available, this can further reduce payback timing.
Fleets can reduce their per-kilometre cost using natural gas. For fleets that operate 15 to 20 high-mileage natural gas vehicles, the cost of a private onsite refueling station can be put into the fuel contract and spread over the life of the vehicles. This approach results in an all-in cost below the cost of diesel. Many fleets in the United States have successfully used this model. Publicly accessible stations including truck stops are also an option for fuel.