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
After years of driving a diesel truck for a trucking company, he had
decided to buy his own vehicle－a bright red rig fueled with liquefied
natural gas, capable of hauling as much as 40 metric tons of loads
including 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.
"Everybody says gas is cleaner with nearly no emissions," he said
after signing a stack of paperwork in the dealer's office. In front of
him, photos of proud drivers posing in front of their own new LNG trucks
had been taped to the wall.
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 4 percent of the more than six million
heavy vehicles able to haul 40 to 49 tons of goods that are currently on
China's roads. The vast majority of the 43 billion tons 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 Beijing sees as a key part of its
war against smog.
Sales of LNG heavy trucks surged 540 percent to nearly 39,000 in the
first seven months of the year, according to Cassie Liu, a truck analyst
with the IHS Markit consultancy.
That was partly fueled by a ban this year on the use of diesel trucks
to transport coal at northern ports in provinces including Hebei and
Shandong, and in Tianjin.
"We are seeing a blowout in LNG trucks this year, thanks to the
government's policy push," said Mu Lei, marketing manager for China
National Heavy Duty Truck Group CNHTC, known as Sinotruk, the country's
largest manufacturer of heavy-duty trucks.
The shift from diesel to LNG is among many government measures aimed
at clearing the air, especially in the north, which was often shrouded
in coal-fueled smog for much of the winter in the past.
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.
Chinese companies including Jereh Group and ENN Energy Holding, which
build LNG filling stations, and Zhangjiagang CIMC Sanctum Cryogenic
Equipment Co Ltd, which specializes in LNG tanks, are expected to
benefit from the gas boom, analysts said.
Sales of new heavy-duty trucks, including diesel and LNG vehicles,
jumped 75 percent in the January-August period to 768,214, according to
industry website www.chinatruck.org.
It did not break down the numbers, but companies say that diesel growth is being dwarfed by that of the LNG trucks.
Last week, Sinotruk netted new orders for 1,371 heavy-duty trucks,
900 of which run on LNG, at an event bringing together coal transport
companies from seven northern Chinese cities, Mu said. In the first half
of this year, Sinotruk sold 5,200 LNG trucks, up 650 percent year on
"Gas trucks are more environmentally friendly and more economic,"
said Lai Wei, general manager of Tianjin Shengteng Transport Company, a
privately run trucking company.
Lai is tripling his LNG fleet to more than 100 by the end of this
year, adding 65 new trucks made by Shaanxi Heavy Duty Automobile Co Ltd,
the country's largest LNG vehicle producer.