Biomethane is a renewable resource, mainly produced by the methanization process, and can be an interesting alternative for decarbonizing a number of sectors, such as road freight and passenger transport. For several years now, France’s National Low-Carbon Strategy has been relying on biomethane to kick-start the decarbonization of the heavy-vehicle fleet. Over the past 5 years, NGV (natural gas vehicle) engines, which use either fossil gas or biomethane, have developed as an alternative to diesel, reaching a fleet of around 12,000 trucks and 7,000 buses and coaches in France by early 2023.
Beyond this rather early development for the heavy-duty vehicle sector, the Mobility in Transition Institute has sought to explore the conditions for successful development of this energy carrier in a perspective of total decorrelation from fossil resources. Indeed, the coherence of French public policy is at stake, because in 2021, the proportion of biomethane consumed in the fleet was only 14%. This work has enabled us to highlight other criteria limiting the development of this solution, and to converge on a relatively asymptotic development of this motorization.
Excluding the question of biomethane availability and the environmental conditions under which it is produced, the analysis focuses on the dynamics and industrial drivers behind the supply of heavy-duty vehicles running on bioNGV. It appears that the industrial strategies of truck manufacturers mean that, in order of magnitude, the share of NGV sales in France will remain below 5%, due to the need to prioritize investment in electrified solutions.
This new choice, embedded in European market logics, needs to be considered in the redefinition of French public policies. Iddri’s scenario leads to consumption by the fleet of trucks, buses and coaches reaching an asymptote of around 10 TWh in 2030 (i.e. around 25 times more than biomethane consumption allocated to transport in 2021, but very significantly less than the scenarios of the National Low-Carbon Strategy still in place at the beginning of 2023).
The most appropriate use for this resource is in captive fleets for long-distance use, or with low electrification potential at short term. Finally, the further use of methane in road transport can only be envisaged through a switch to 100% biomethane, with a reasonable timeframe of around 2030, as set out in the industry plan of the French Natural Gas Vehicle Association (AFGNV).