On a recent morning in Yutian, a dusty town bisected by the highway that connects Beijing to the sea, Su Meiquan strolled into a dealership packed with hulking trucks and prepared to drive off with a brand new rig.
After years of driving a diesel truck for a trucking company, he had decided to buy his own vehicle – a bright red rig fuelled with liquefied natural gas, capable of hauling as much as 40 tonnes of loads like steel or slabs of marble.
Su hopes the LNG truck – less polluting and cheaper to operate than diesel ones – will be the cornerstone of his own business, plying the route to the western fringes of China.
Sales of large LNG trucks are expected to hit record levels in China this year as the government steps up an anti-pollution campaign that includes curbs on heavy-duty diesel vehicles.
LNG trucks account for about four percent of the more than six million heavy vehicles able to haul 40 to 49 tonnes of goods that are currently on China’s roads. The vast majority of the 43 billion tonnes of freight transported across China last year was by highway.
But demand for LNG trucks is soaring as companies and manufacturers shift to vehicles that run on the gas that Beijing sees as a key part of its war against smog.
That was partly fuelled by a ban this year on the use of diesel trucks to transport coal at northern ports in provinces like Hebei and Shandong, and in the city of Tianjin.
The shift to gas trucks is helping fuel demand for LNG in China, as are other government measures aimed at clearing the air, especially in the north, which is shrouded in a hazardous coal-fuelled smog for much of the winter.
One major project is piping gas to 1.4 million households across the north for heating this winter, shifting away from coal.
China, already the world’s No.3 LNG consumer, has seen imports jump 45 percent so far this year.
Government restrictions on cargo overloading last year, for safety reasons, has also driven truck sales as operators rushed to buy bigger trucks.
Next month, Beijing will also impose restrictions on thousands of northern factories using diesel trucks, forcing many to use more rail and others to consider gas-powered lorries.
Source: News agencies