The EU is a global frontrunner in setting the agenda for lowering carbon emissions in the energy and transport sectors. The European Commission’s key “Fit for 55” legislative package puts forward legislative proposals to cut back carbon emissions across all transport modes. In a series of articles, the Zürich 5 Coalition aims to shed light on why and how biomethane should be used to decarbonize the road transport sector. With this first article, the Coalition aims to inform readers on the benefits of using biomethane in the road transport sector.
1. Biomethane is the cleanest energy carrier today, as well as a fully circular solution
When accounted for via a well-to-wheel approach, which considers all emissions throughout the whole lifecycle of a fuel type, biomethane is the cleanest energy carrier today. The benefit of biomethane, especially when used in passenger cars and vans in the form of bio-compressed natural gas (bio-CNG), is that it provides CO2 savings of up to 97% compared to gasoline vehicles. In some cases, when slurry is used as waste to create bio-CNG, using bio-CNG can result in negative CO2 emissions. Since biomethane is produced exclusively from waste, it closes open biological cycles and is therefore a solution to multiple environmental long-term challenges.
2. Bio-CNG / LNG refueling infrastructure is readily available
Another benefit to biomethane is that, thanks to the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive, which is currently in force in the EU, there are already almost 4,000 CNG and 400 LNG-filling stations in Europe. This gas infrastructure, built for regular CNG and LNG, can also be used to transport bio-CNG and bio-LNG. The Zürich 5 Coalition is fully committed to supplying 100% biomethane to the existing (and future) infrastructure in all Member States its members operate in. A swift decarbonization of the European road transport sector through electrification will have a major impact on the EU’s electricity grid. To safeguard the functionality and operational reliability of that grid, maintaining a parallel system with the use of biomethane (being reliable, proven, cost efficient and future and climate proof) is crucial.
3. Biomethane has the potential to support a major share of low-emission vehicles
The biomethane sector alone will be able to reach 34 bcm (billion cubic meters) of sustainable biomethane by 2030. The biogas and biomethane sectors combined will be able to produce an estimated 34 to 42 bcm, equivalent to 370 – 467 TWh (terawatt-hour) by 2030. Their joint potential for 2050 is estimated at 95 bcm (equivalent to 1,008 – 1,020 TWh). This means that 40% of all gas-powered vehicles in the EU could run on biomethane by 2030.
4. Biomethane is a complementary solution to electrification and hydrogen
Several Member States already ensure a significant share of biomethane in vehicle-gas such as Denmark (100%), Sweden (94%), the Netherlands (90%), Finland (59%) and Germany (50%). For comparison, significant fleet renewal towards EVs and hydrogen-based vehicles, given the average age of a passenger car (11,5 years) and the size of the rolling fleet in the EU (almost 250 million passenger cars, 28 million vans, and 6 million medium and heavy-duty vehicles), is not a feasible short to medium term strategy. Especially for heavy-duty transport the horizon for broad uptake of hydrogen is still too far away, while electrification of trucks has proven to not be a realistic business case in the near future.
5. Biomethane mobility is affordable and available for consumers
The Just Transition towards a climate-neutral continent cannot be achieved without a broad variety of low emission alternatives, which are affordable to all European citizens. The benefit of using biomethane in road transport is that it is affordable and available to consumers. The current narrow focus on one or two (new) technologies holds the danger of excluding a major share of Europeans from the transition to more sustainable transport, or at least making this transition unaffordable. Moreover, expanding bio-CNG throughout Europe’s refueling infrastructure does not require large national public investment schemes given bio-CNG’s profitable business case (as long as bio-CNG is accepted as a low-emissions end-fuel in the Renewable Energy Directive).
6. Biomethane ensures European industrial leadership, jobs and innovation
European car and heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers are global leaders in NGV (natural gas vehicle) technology. Vehicles compatible for biomethane are not only reliable and high performing, but they are also sold, used and serviced in 85 countries across the world. Additionally, both the biomethane production sector, as well as the car manufacturing sector, provide mainly local jobs to European citizens. By ignoring the potential of biomethane, the EU risks losing its global leadership and plenty of jobs at the expense of other continents and will increase its energy dependency on third countries. In addition, the biomethane sector consistently delivers innovative solutions, which can be applied throughout European industry.
Read more about the benefits of biomethane in our position paper here.
 Gustafsson, M., Svensson, N., Eklund, M., & Fredriksson Moller, B. (2021). Well-to-wheel climate performance of gas and electric vehicles in Europe. Transportation Research Part D, 97.