Vienna/Kassel. The Volkswagen Group wants to collaborate with companies from the natural gas industry in the promotion of compressed natural gas (CNG) as an alternative fuel.
The goal is the ten-fold increase of natural gas-powered vehicles in Germany to roughly one million by 2025. WINGAS is participating in this cooperation. Managing Director Ludwig Möhring explained the outlook for CNG during the Vienna Motor Symposium, one of Europe’s largest conventions for automotive propulsion technology.
Mr. Möhring, sales of natural gas-powered vehicles have been rather slow. According to the Federal Motor Transport Authority, there are currently 80,300 natural gas-powered cars in Germany, the EU’s largest car market. Why don't customers purchase more of these vehicles?
Since the use of natural gas as a motor fuel is a mature technology, there must be other reasons. To establish this alternative more firmly in the market, the Industriekreis zur Erdgasmobilität (industrial association for natural gas-based mobility) was founded in Germany, which includes Volkswagen and other interested companies like WINGAS as members.
What are the advantages of natural gas as a motor fuel?
We must quickly and sustainably reduce CO2 emissions. Electromobility alone cannot accomplish this, but this should be possible in combination with natural gas-based mobility. And that is a huge driving force. The technology already exists and the infrastructure is in place. Natural gas makes it possible for the consumer to easily reduce CO2 emissions at unbeatable costs.
But politicians throughout the EU and not to mention Germany are relying on decarbonization, which is why people are skeptical about using natural gas as a fossil fuel.
We have not reduced our CO2 emissions at all throughout the last six years of the energy turnaround in Germany. Even the huge expansion of renewable energies didn’t help. The bottom line looks even worse in the transportation sector, where CO2 emissions have not decreased since 1990, due to the rising amount of vehicles. Now the federal government wants to achieve a 40 percent reduction over the coming years with its climate protection plan. Considering the German energy mix, however, promoting electromobility means merely shifting emissions from the exhaust pipe to the smokestack of the nearest coal-fired power plant. That’s not climate protection and politicians are beginning to realize this. What we need are solutions that reduce CO2 emissions quickly, and the combination of e-mobility and natural gas-based mobility is one of them.
How can you convey this to the public?
As you already mentioned, the plan calls for Volkswagen, as one of the industry’s major players, to kick off a corresponding awareness campaign with support from the government and other companies. Personally, I think that it would be good if well-known politicians such as the minister of the environment or the chancellor herself were present during the opening of a new natural gas filling station and not only when another wind turbine goes into operation. This would send a signal.
A campaign alone isn’t enough though...
Let's not forget that natural gas-based mobility also supports our domestic auto industry, which is currently under pressure. This is an industry that directly accounts for roughly 800,000 jobs in Germany alone by developing and building predominantly combustion engines. And the future of the combustion engine is tied to natural gas. If we are able to work together with the government in conveying this issue, we will certainly attract more interest among citizens. People will see that buying a natural gas-powered car means buying a sustainable vehicle. And this does not even take into account the possibilities being offered by power-to-gas and bio-gas or bio-methane for the further de-carbonization of the transport sector.
What is your outlook for synthetic natural gas or bio-methane?
It's far more a question of the scalability of bio-methane and power-to-gas, and also hydrogen, by the way, which is often underestimated. All the parties involved, including producers, will have to look at the issues. You also see that the use of biofuels in the mineral oil sector hasn't forced oil producers out of the market. What is surprising for us though is that the potential of the gas infrastructure, in terms of the transport and storage capabilities, has been ignored thus far. Perhaps it's simply because these are complex issues that require further explanation.