Vehicles powered by natural gas now hold a market share of 5,3% of overall new car sales in the country, 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%). In total, Italy counts 880,000 NGVs on its roads, or around 80% of Europe’s entire car fleet running on gas, according to data from energy company ENI.
The development of the Italian gas vehicle 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 refueling infrastructure. An additional boost came in the 1990s, when popular small and medium-sized vehicles became available as CNG conversions.
The rapid growth of Italy’s NGV fleet in the recent years has two main reasons: a reduced tax on natural gas as a fuel, and a subsidies program from the government that lasted from 2008 to 2010 and supported the conversion of existing cars as well as the purchase of new ones powered with gas from factory. As a result the number of NGVs increased by 68% since 2008, with the number of CNG stations almost doubling in the meantime.
There are now about 1,060 natural gas stations in the country, of which about 1,010 are open to the public. Italy has also three LNG import terminals, but lacks truck-loading facilities, thus the market penetration of LNG is very low. Besides, there are only eight L-CNG filling stations, 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, and is the first facility in Italy to service heavy-duty vehicles.
Monthly sales of natural gas as a vehicle fuel in Italy amount to 80 million Nm3, with CNG and LNG being favorably 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