This Issue Brief examines the conditions for the development of biomethane in French road transport. Setting aside the question of the availability of this energy and the environmental conditions of its production, the analysis focuses on the pathways and drivers of the industrial transformation required for the supply of heavy-duty vehicles running on biomethane.

Key Messages

  • The continued use of methane in road transport is only advisable by a transition to 100% biomethane within a time frame which is reasonable to place around 2030, as outlined in the French Association of Natural Gas Vehicles (AFGNV)’s sector plan.
  • Biomethane has significant potential to develop as a replacement for fossil CNG and diesel in the transport sector, for buses and coaches in particular. Moreover, while electrification is set to grow massively, a share of long-distance truck transport could also operate on biomethane for those use cases not suitably covered by electric models.
  • However, developing and marketing competitive bio-NGV models compliant with future EU CO2 standard or EURO standard requirements in the medium- to long-term in a manner that also makes industrial sense at the European level represents a strategic and economic challenge for manufacturers. This constitutes a limiting factor that will largely determine the success of this solution for the sector and thereby its long-term potential.
  • However, the resulting scenario must be compared with other perspectives that will play either in its favour or against it. These include the comprehensive environmental impact–i.e., not limited to greenhouse gas emissions–across the whole life cycle of biomethane, which may become less and less favourable as its production grows towards an industrialised model integrating intermediate crops for energy purposes. In addition, the economic balance of bio-CNG/LNG must also be examined with respect to factors such as price volatility for users on the one hand and the fiscal capacity of the State to support the competitiveness of the sector on the other.
  • IDDRI’s scenario leads to a market share of newly registered bio-CNG-compatible trucks in France of around 2.5% in 2030 and a consumption of the fleet of trucks, buses and coaches that reaches an asymptote of around 10 TWh in 2030 (i.e., about 25 times more than the consumption in 2021, but very significantly below the current National Low-Carbon Strategy scenarios).
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