Sometimes the devil is in the detail…
Bosch, a top quality tier 1 automotive supplier, have issued an interesting press release1 concerning the different automotive powertrain technologies around the world. I must admit, that this remained under my radar, because it focused on how diesel had great potential in China and hybrids were not quite there yet in Europe. Nothing to do with Autogas in particular. The article caught my attention by chance after being been published by our colleagues over at gazeo.com.
If gazeo has it, it must be relevant, no? The press release has a small section, a mere paragraph on CNG. Before jumping into details I’d like to clarify that, although gaseous fuels are by far the strongest fuel alternatives world wide, in comparison to the conventional fuels, Autogas and CNG still remain marginal except for in the known strongholds like Argentina, Brazil, Iran and Pakistan for CNG and our top performers like Korea, Turkey, Poland and Italy. Even a new arrival into the top five like Thailand, which less than a decade ago had a fleet counting considerably fewer than 50,000 vehicles, does not remain unnoticed for too long. On the contrary. The paragraph on CNG boasted with a market share of 11 % of all passenger cars sold into the Korean market in the year 2012.
Which is precisely why this information struck me as odd: should the Korean market have surreptitiously turned into the poster boy for CNG? Such a thing neither happens over night nor does it come without a barrage of press releases and media presence by the respective associations. A short research confirms: Korea’s car fleet does not contain many CNG cars nor has this fleet been developing in a dynamic fashion. According to the international statistics of the Natural Gas Vehicle Association in Europe (NGVA Europe) there were 3,049 passenger cars driving on CNG2 and a total CNG vehicle fleet of 35,000, predominantly buses, reported for the year 2012. In the same year there were over 2.4 million LPG cars3 in South Korea (out of a total of 14.5 million4). This means that close to 17 % of the Korean passenger car fleet drives on LPG.
The press release shows other inconsistencies regarding other facts and figures globally available (NGVA Europe, OICA etc.), for instance it declares 2 % of the vehicles sold in the EU 15 as CNG-powered, when in fact CNG cars only make up for around half a percent of the EU 15 car fleet and do not sell a much larger share. The only possibility to achieve a 2 % market share would be if both sales of CNG and Autogas cars are combined into one number.
A look at the fleets – considering the EU is in totality, rather than at the annual sales in strong markets for new cars returns figures that favour LPG. The large Autogas fleets of Poland, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Romania are all disregarded when laying the focus only on EU 15. When these countries are added to the equation LPG alone already accounts for 3 % of the cars in the EU-28.
It looks like Bosch might actually have got their statistics wrong with regard to the alternative powertrains in current automotive markets in several countries. Especially the discrepancy in the Korean market, lets it seem possible that – at least for some markets – CNG has been confused with the more extensive and widespread markets for LPG vehicles. While we welcome any publicity for alternative fuels in general, I would like to suggest that more accurate figures be used when writing about new technologies. I also would like to suggest anyone to take a look at the source statistics in order to evaluate the situation by yourself. The statistics concerning LPG globally are only one click away.
With more than 23 million cars globally and almost 7.4 million in the EU Autogas is the most successful alternative fuel in the world. This success is due to a mix of exceptional properties. First the fuel is cleaner than conventional fuels like gasoline and diesel, at the same time it is more accessible than any other alternative available at more than 70,000 retail sites world-wide and 30,000 in the EU. Its implementation in current vehicle concepts is simpler and less costly than other powertrain alternatives, giving the “biggest bang for the buck” when considering its greenhouse gas reduction potential. Very recently the EU Commission published in its proposed Council Directive for the implementation of Art. 7 of the Fuel Quality Directive (2009/30/EC) CO2-emission values for each fuel, based on their respective life cycles. This takes into account not only the tailpipe emissions but also the amount of energy needed to extract, process and dispense the fuel. For LPG this value is 21 % lower than for gasoline and the potential is expected to increase with the advent of LPG co-produced with other liquid fuels from renewable sources. In addition to that recent research has also shown, that Autogas is well suited – actually even a better match – for use in modern “downsized” engines with turbocharging and direct injection. Outperforming gasoline right off the bat with only minor modifications to programming, Autogas offers the potential to increase peak efficiency by 12 % when an engine is optimised for Autogas.