The global need to reduce harmful emissions and changes in fuel formulations have triggered the demand for alternative fuels. Since the last few years, the energy sector has been moving towards clean energy sources such as CNG and hydrogen, which is expected to drive the growth of hydrogen as well as CNG vehicle fuel tank markets.
In the coming years, hydrogen and CNG fuel tank manufacturers are predictable to partner with R&D institutes to introduce innovative and cost-efficient ways for the production of hydrogen and CNG (compressed natural gas) in a bid to accelerate the adoption of these gases as an alternative fuel.
Fossil fuel markets are oligopolistic where prices are controlled to a great degree; for instance, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries controls gasoline prices. CNG and hydrogen fuel, thus, offer viable alternatives since they are cost-effective, eco-friendly, and non-carbon emitting fuel sources. As these technologies gain awareness and traction, the CNG and hydrogen vehicle fuel tank markets are expected to grow
CNG is gaining attention as a fuel source, and CNG vehicle tank manufacturers are marketing their products as eco-friendly alternatives. The target-based goals for reducing greenhouse emissions have accelerated the adoption of alternative and cleaner fuels. For example, the U.S. government’s Vehicle Technologies Office has set a target to reduce petroleum use in transportation by 2.5 billion gallons a year by 2025, which highlights the importance of alternative fuels in the country.
Several market players are significantly investing in the development of EVs that can match CNG and hydrogen fuel vehicles in terms of performance, owing to their low emission and ability to harness solar energy. Additionally, numerous efforts are being taken by governments around the globe to increase the penetration of charging stations, which is currently higher than that of CNG fueling stations.
The existing infrastructure does not have the capacity for the efficient transportation of compressed hydrogen. Pipelines and storage trucks and tanks will have to be laced with metal hydrides to enable the transportation and storage of hydrogen gas. CNG also requires similar storage requirements, which makes the refitting of cars with CNG tanks cost-intensive. For instance, a CNG car costs around 7–10% more than a petrol-powered car. Filling stations of CNG and hydrogen cost higher than charging stations. For instance, a 240-volt charger, including installation charges, costs approximately USD 2,000, and the cost for residential CNG fueling stations is 50% higher than electric charging points. The high price deters consumers from purchasing CNG fueled vehicles for personal use. Furthermore, hydrogen element separation is a time-consuming process and requires high precision, which increases the overall cost of manufacturing a hydrogen fuel tank.
By type, the vehicle fuel tank market has been segmented into type 4 CNG tank, hydrogen tank, and others. The others segment encompasses type 1, type 2, and type 3 CNG tanks. Type 4 CNG tanks offer increased fatigue strength and are lightweight, non-corrosive, and leak-resistant. The type 4 CNG tank type segment is projected to grow at the fastest pace with a CAGR of 9.5%.
Hydrogen tanks are used in various applications such as automotive, transit buses, bulk hauling, and stationary storage because of their lightweight, efficiency, durability, and easy replaceability. However, hydrogen-powered vehicles are witnessing sluggish sales growth, owing to their high price, low awareness, and unavailability of hydrogen fueling stations. Currently, hydrogen-powered vehicle manufacturers are unwilling to produce vehicles due to the inadequate supply of hydrogen whereas hydrogen producers are unwilling to supply unless there is sufficient demand.
Automotive OEMs predominantly manufacture gasoline-powered vehicles, owing to the slow pace of developments in mobile hydrogen storage and fuel systems. Honda Civic GX is the only car that was indigenously developed with a CNG fuel tank, but it is majorly manufactured as a fleet vehicle and rarely used as a private car. This is likely to provide an opportunity for CNG and hydrogen fuel tank manufacturers to partner with automobile manufacturers and provide them consultancy services or licenses to use their vehicle tank technology in their manufacturing operations. The trend is quite visible for commercial fleet vehicles. For instance, in March 2017, Freightliner Custom Chassis (FCCC), Clean Energy Fuels Corp, and Green Alternative Systems (GAS) partnered to provide CNG fueling system for FCCC chassis.
Attributing to the high mileage provided by CNG, a majority of commercial fleet owners are focusing on fitting and buying trucks with CNG fuel tanks. This is evident by the 43% rise in the sales of U.S. and Canadian Class 8 natural gas truck retail sales in the first five months of 2019, as per Alternative Fuels Quarterly. In addition to this, fuel tank manufacturers can also partner with passenger service providers in various tourist spots in North America to provide refitting and maintenance services.
The Asia-Pacific automotive market is undergoing a transition where manufacturers are moving towards cleaner fuels such as CNG. Maruti Suzuki, one of the largest automotive manufacturers in Asia, announced plans to discontinue the production of diesel engines by 2020 and introduce CNG as an option on its most of the small cars. Asia-Pacific is the largest market for CNG-powered vehicles and comprises approximately 20,000 CNG fuel stations. India, Pakistan, China, and Indonesia are the key countries with the highest sales of CNG vehicles. India is aggressively moving towards CNG transportation, and the country’s government has announced an ambitious plan to introduce 10,000 CNG fueling stations in the coming decade. China owns the largest CNG fleet in the world with more than 6 million vehicles. To tackle the pollution from diesel vehicles, the Chinese government has introduced a five-year plan for natural gas development with a target of 10 million CNG vehicles by 2020.
North America’s automotive market is experiencing uncertainties in light of the U.S. – China trade war and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The North America vehicle fuel tank market is expected to reach USD 238.56 million by 2026, with a CAGR of 8.9%. Significant growth in the number of vehicles drives the demand for vehicle fuel tanks in the region. The U.S. produced around 11.31 million vehicles in 2018, recording a 1.1% increase over 2017. As per our analysis, the U.S. will dominate the North America vehicle fuel tank market and witness growth at a CAGR of 8.5% in terms of revenue during the forecast period 2019–2026.
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