The French government and carmakers, fueling stations operators and energy companies have signed a five-year protocol designed to increase the use of natural gas vehicles in the country.
According to François Loos, the French industry minister, the government will introduce tax incentives to buyers of new natural gas-powered cars, and will offer a tax break on natural gas at the pump to encourage its use.
The protocol has two primary thrusts:
To increase the use of natural gas in heavy commercial vehicles. Goals for 2010 include a doubling of the natural gas bus fleet, tripling the number of natural-gas powered refuse collection vehicles and increasing the alternative fuel’s general use in urban trucks. Currently, there are some 1,600 natural gas buses and more than 300 natural gas refuse collection vehicles in France.
To increase awareness and use of natural gas in light-duty vehicles by increasing the number of CNG models available and by establishing both commercial and home CNG refueling equipment and options. The car manufacturers are aiming to have 100,000 cars and light vans running on natural gas in five years’ time.
Among the members of the French Natural Gas Association (l'Association Française du Gaz Naturel pour Véhicules—AFGNV) signing the protocol were Gaz de France, Total, Carrefour, Renault Trucks, and Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroën.
Gaz de France will soon start promoting a system—similar to Honda’s Phill—whereby its customers can top up their car’s fuel tank overnight using a compressor installed in their garage.
Peugeot already offers a range of natural gas-powered light vans, and is launching a version of its popular C3 mid-sized sedan that will have twin fuel systems: one for gasoline and one for natural gas.
France currently is 21st in the number of natural gas vehicles in its fleet, according to statistics from the International Association of Natural Gas Vehicles.