Benefits and Challenges – A Trip from Brussels to Milano on CNG

Driving a long trip on CNG - is it possible?

How nice would it be if long trips were possible running on CNG?

Have you ever wondered what it’d be to drive a long-distance trip with a CNG car?

In this article, you will discover what it is to drive from Brussels to Milano on CNG. Would it be challenging or would you actually save money and emissions without compromising your trip?

We build a case study for you exploring a realistic trip between these cities. The reason why we chose Brussels and Milano is to show you the performance of CNG on long trips. The total distance of this trip is 913km and you can apply the same assumptions to other European journeys of that length.

Doing such a long trip you are probably worried about three things: 

1) is it going to be affordable

2) how long does it take to fuel the vehicle 

3) does it really matter whether you drive on CNG 

Here are 3 myths that we have seen about CNG:

  • Myth #1: CNG cars are more costly to operate or don’t really present a significant economic benefit
  • Myth #2: Fuelling with CNG takes you time and there aren’t that many stations anyway, making the whole trip difficult to organise
  • Myth #3: CNG is just another fossil fuel with no environmental benefits for the future

After reading this article, you will be able to compare CNG with conventional petrol and diesel to understand the benefits and challenges when switching to alternative fuels.

Let’s Define The Trip

Here’s how the whole trip looks like: you start from Brussels and arrive in Milano, crossing Luxembourg, France and Switzerland. Each of these countries offers you the possibility to fuel CNG. Nevertheless, the prices and availability of stations are going to differ.

How long will it take you to complete this trip? Given the distance of 913km and an average European motorway speed, it is safe to assume around 9.5h. Another factor that could influence the amount of time you spent on the road is how many times you have to fuel.

Defining the trip from Brussels to Milano on CNG

For the case study, you could take a small vehicle, such as one with a 1l engine. If you wanted to, you could run the same calculation with any other car listed in NGVA Europe’s vehicle catalogue. The consumption of your example car is 3.6 kg per 100km. This means that for the whole trip, you will need around 33kg of CNG (1).

So, how many times do you need to stop and refuel? Since your tank holds around 15kg of CNG and you would need 33kg for the trip, that means that you will have to fuel three times. This way you wouldn’t have to worry about running out of CNG.

Interestingly enough, even if you run out of CNG, your vehicle will still be able to continue thanks to the additional petrol tank in the car. In practical terms, when you finish the CNG, the car automatically switches to petrol without any interference from your side. 

What if you consider the same car running on petrol or diesel? The first will consume 4.9l /100km and the latter – 3.9l /100km. Therefore, for the length of the trip, you will need 45 litres if you choose petrol or 33 litres if you go with diesel. 

(1) These values are for an average small car of the same size for CNG, petrol and diesel. Actual consumption may vary to a degree.

How Do We Save Money?

All these factors above are very important because now you can take a look into the affordability and compare the different technologies based on the price of exploitation. In other words, now you can compare the cost of your tip on CNG, petrol and diesel.

Which fuel saves you the most on a long trip?

The European Commission provides a list of average petrol and diesel prices in the EU. So, the average prices between Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Italy are €1.43 and €1.35 per litre of petrol and diesel, respectively. At the same time, the average price of CNG is around €0.96 per kg.

Taking into account the consumption of your example car, you can calculate that the price for each fuel to cover your trip between Brussels and Milano is going to be the following:

  • Petrol: €1.43/l x 45 litres or €64
  • Diesel: €1.35/l x 33 litres or €45
  • CNG: €0.96/kg x 33 kg or €32

What’s the Catch For This Trip?

So, it looks like driving on CNG is 50% cheaper than running on petrol and 28% cheaper than diesel. This is what makes running on CNG truly affordable. It is one of the main benefits CNG offers you.

At this point, you probably wonder what is the challenge? What could be the catch?

Often when thinking about CNG people are afraid that fuelling their vehicle is too difficult because there aren’t that many stations. This was probably true years ago, but since then, the infrastructure has expanded massively. In fact, at the time of writing this article, Belgium has 121 CNG stations, Luxembourg – 2, France – 92, Switzerland – 150 and Italy – 1286. 

On the trip between Brussels and Milano, there are close to 76 CNG stations to chose from. You can discover the stations for your journey by visiting our free stations map and planning the whole trip. As already discussed, you would only need to fuel three times so this isn’t going to  vbe an issue. Furthermore, fueling takes just as much as fueling a petrol or diesel car, so no additional time is needed. 

But What About the Environmental Benefits?

You probably wonder is it offers any environmental benefits,  now that we have discussed the price and the availability of CNG. 

Driving sustainable is possible thanks to CNG even on long trips

Often this is the most overlooked aspect but one which is of great importance. If the price was the only factor to differentiate gmobility, then it wouldn’t be that interesting to consider, to begin with. Furthermore, it wouldn’t be supported by our governments as a valid fuel option for the future. 

Luckily, CNG offers great environmental benefits compared with conventional fuels. Also, thanks to gas in transport you can drastically limit air pollutants coming from transport. Therefore, it is interesting to return to the case study and examine the CO2 savings from CNG on the trip.

An examination of the emissions from natural gas in transport shows that CNG offers 7% Greenhouse Gas Emissions savings compared with diesel and 23% vs petrol. Not only is CNG more affordable, but it is also more environmentally friendly.

In addition to these savings, you can consider the benefit of blending CNG with bioCNG. This is a practice that is already in place in many EU countries and is expected to continue in the future. In fact, the EU future fuel mix will rely on renewable gas to reduce transport emissions for light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles.

For example, on your trip from Brussels to Milano, you can use stations with 100% bioCNG offering. In practice, this means that you can drive carbon neutral, not in the distant future, but already today.

The Verdict

In conclusion, here are 3 myths about CNG that were exposed and have proven untrue:

Myth #1: CNG cars are more costly to operate or don’t really present a significant economic benefit.

Reality: Driving on CNG is around 50% cheaper than petrol and 28% cheaper than diesel.

Myth #2: Fuelling with CNG takes you time and there aren’t that many stations anyway, making the whole trip difficult to organise.

Reality: There are thousands of CNG stations you can choose from across Europe and more are being developed daily. In the case study, you discovered that you would need to fuel your car no more than 3 times to cross almost 1000km and there were already more than 70 CNG stations on the way.

Myth #3: CNG is just another fossil fuel with no environmental benefits for the future

Reality: Natural gas already offers substantial CO2 and air quality benefits. Furthermore, renewable gas is already available in many stations in Europe and allows us to make your trip truly carbon-neutral.

If you are new to gmobility and would like to learn more, take a look at our latest articles, which go into a lot more details and share more interesting facts.

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