Italy largest European market for alternative fuel vehicles

Vehicles powered by natural gas now hold a market share of 5,3% of overall new car sales in Italy, according to new data from ANFIA, the Italian automotive industry association.

ANFIA remarks that Italy has the largest market in Europe for cars with an alternative source of propulsion, both in units (almost 200,000 in 2013) as well as market share (15.3%). Vehicles running on natural gas play an important role.

In total, Italy counts 880,000 vehicles powered by natural gas on its roads, or around 80% of Europe’s entire car fleet on gas, according to data from energy company ENI. The development of the Italian vehicle gas market took off in the 1970s and 1980s with the active ‘retrofitting’ of cars, converting them for the use of natural gas, in combination with a relatively well-developed refuelling infrastructure. An additional boost came in the 1990s, when popular small and medium-sized vehicles became available as compressed natural gas conversions.

The rapid growth of Italy’s running park in the recent years has two main reasons: a reduced tax on natural gas as a fuel, and a subsidies programme from the government. The subsidies lasted from 2008 to 2010 and supported the conversion of existing cars as well as the purchase of new gas-powered vehicles manufactured as such on the production lines. As a result the number of gas-powered vehicles increased by 68% since 2008, with the number of CNG stations almost doubling in the meantime. The scaling back of the incentives in 2010 and the uneven distribution of filling stations in the country have however slowed market growth down.

There are now about 1,060 stations for refuelling with natural gas in the country, of which about 1,010 are open to the public. Italy has also 3 import terminals for Liquified Natural Gas, but lacks truck-loading facilities. As a result, the market penetration of LNG is very low. Only 8 L-CNG filling stations exist, which are supplied via tanker trucks with LNG from other countries, mainly Spain. The latest LNG station was opened in April 2014 as part of the European LNG Blue Corridors project, which aims to have a series of filling stations throughout Europe. It is the first supply point in Italy for refuelling heavy-duty vehicles.

Monthly sales of natural gas as a vehicle fuel in Italy amount to 80 million Nm3, with CNG and LNG being favourably taxed compared to traditional fuels, especially gasoline, on which the tax is among the highest in the EU. Driving with CNG therefore allows for substantial cost savings in Italy: 64% compared to gasoline and 57% to diesel.

Source: NGVA Europe