Interest in CNG cars wanes as price of fuel increases

CNG fuel pump.
CNG fuel pump. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The high cost of compressed natural gas (CNG) is forcing people to modify their consumption habits. Drivers of CNG vehicles, for example, are opting to drive with gasoline instead, and interest in buying CNG vehicles has all but disappeared.

A year ago, CNG cost around €1 per kilogram at gas stations in Estonia. By now, the price has gone up to around €3.50.

According to Tarmo Kärsna, board member at fuel retailer Alexela, the increase in the cost of CNG is tied directly to the increase in the cost of natural gas.

"If you look at current natural gas prices, then yes, we've seen an increase of more than 10- or 20-fold compared with last year," Kärsna said. "If natural gas costs €200 per megawatt-hour, that unfortunately also impacts the price of CNG as automotive fuel."

According to the board member, due to such a significant price increase, people are simply buying less CNG and driving more with gasoline.

Testing, inspection and certification (TIC) company Kiwa Eesti has a total fleet of 36 cars, 29 of which run on CNG. CEO Tõnu Roosaar said that right now they haven't yet been able to do anything to save on costs, but that they intend to.

"As these changes have been within such a short time period, we can't react to them so quickly by doing anything but just bearing these costs somehow," Roosaar said.

"Over the next year, half of these vehicles will be replaced, as their leases are ending," he noted. "At that point we won't be looking as much toward CNG anymore; it'll be either gasoline or then hybrids, to maintain a more environmentally friendly aspect."

In addition to current drivers of CNG vehicles, the increase in the price of CNG as fuel has impacted CNG vehicle sales as well. Andrias Kirs, head of sales at Volkswagen and Škoda dealer Moller Auto, said that interest in CNG cars is practically nonexistent right now.

"While previously one major principle [of CNG vehicles] was buying a car that is very cheap to run per 100 kilometers, then now, in light of the prices we're seeing on the gas market, it's essentially the most expensive option," Kirs said. "Thus the market here has dropped off quite a bit ⁠— or dropped off almost completely, I'd say."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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