Worldwide sales of alternative fuel vehicles will reach 14 percent of total sales of medium and heavy duty vehicles by 2035, while the number of global sales of vehicles with autonomous capability will grow from zero currently to 94.7 million, according to a new report from Navigant Research.
Medium and heavy duty vehicles (MHDVs) running on alternative fuel represent less than 5 percent of the total vehicle market today, and the vast majority of these use conventional internal combustion engines (ICE) powered by either gasoline or diesel.
Navigant says that is changing as less expensive alternatives to petroleum-based fuels, such as natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG – also known as propane or autogas), and electricity make inroads in the market.
“Attractive business cases for medium and heavy duty alternative fuel vehicles are emerging across varying segments of the market,” says Scott Shepard, research analyst with Navigant Research. “Natural gas has a significant advantage over most alternative fuels, in that low fuel costs and advances in infrastructure for both liquefied natural gas and fast-fill compressed natural gas make the fuel competitive in all market segments, including heavy duty long-haul trucking.”
While diesel will remain the primary fuel choice of MHDVs throughout the forecast period, the percentage of MHDVs powered by diesel is expected to fall from more than 79 percent in 2014 to 76 percent in 2035.
Meanwhile, although significant challenges remain for bringing autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles to market, the competition among vehicle makers to offer autonomous features in cars and trucks is strong, says a related Navigant report.
“Combinations of advanced driver assistance features that can enable semi-autonomous driving are now being brought to market for the first time,” says David Alexander, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. “The cost reductions brought about by increasing volumes and technological advances make the installation of the multiple sensors necessary for such capability feasible.”
While more testing is still needed to ensure robustness, the biggest practical hurdles before rollout to the public are not technological but relate to liability, regulation, and legislation, according to the report.