Methanol is a liquid alcohol fuel that can be produced from natural gas, coal, or renewable resources like municipal waste or biomass. As a potential alternative to traditional gasoline and diesel, methanol offers many advantages such as being cleaner-burning, less expensive, and having higher octane rating, which makes it more efficient. This study explores new developments in methanol usage as a commercial fleet vehicle fuel, considering GHG emissions, economic, environmental, and social costs, and future growth predictions.

Methanol as a Fuel: Current Status and Recent Advancements

For years, methanol has been used as a racing fuel due to its high octane rating and good combustion properties. However, recent advancements have brought methanol into focus as a practical and cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels for commercial fleet vehicles.

Conversion technologies have made it easier to use methanol in conventional internal combustion engines, often requiring only minor modifications. Additionally, advancements in direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs) offer a potentially more efficient and cleaner-burning option for powering electric vehicles.

Moreover, recent developments in methanol production have lowered the costs and increased the sustainability of this fuel. Methanol can be produced from a variety of feedstocks, including natural gas, coal, and increasingly, from renewable resources. The introduction of renewable methanol, produced from waste or biomass, presents an attractive option for fleet owners looking to reduce their environmental impact.

GHG Emissions of Methanol as a Fuel

To provide a fair comparison of methanol's GHG emissions, we use the concept of gasoline gallon equivalents (GGE). This provides a standard measure of energy content that can be compared across different fuels. For example, one GGE is roughly equivalent to 114,000 British thermal units (BTUs).

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, conventional gasoline emits approximately 2.421 kilograms of CO2 per GGE. By contrast, methanol produced from natural gas emits approximately 1.37 kg CO2 per GGE, representing a significant reduction of 43%. Methanol from coal emits around 1.98 kg CO2 per GGE, still a reduction of 18%. However, the most substantial reduction in emissions is seen with renewable methanol, with emissions of around 0.46 kg CO2 per GGE, representing an 81% reduction compared to gasoline.

The Sustainability of Methanol as a Fuel

  • Economic Cost: From an economic perspective, methanol offers a viable and cost-effective alternative to conventional fuels. The price of methanol has historically been less volatile than crude oil, providing a more stable and predictable fuel cost for fleet owners. Additionally, the infrastructure and conversion costs associated with methanol are relatively low compared to other alternative fuels.
  • Environmental Cost: From an environmental standpoint, methanol presents a clear advantage over conventional fuels. As mentioned above, the GHG emissions from methanol, especially renewable methanol, are significantly lower than gasoline. Additionally, methanol is a biodegradable and non-carcinogenic substance, reducing the environmental impact of fuel spills.
  • Social Cost: The social cost of methanol fuel is linked to its production process. Producing methanol from natural gas or coal involves extraction and mining processes that can have negative social and environmental impacts. However, renewable methanol production methods avoid many of these problems and provide the added benefit of waste reduction.

Forecasting the Growth of Methanol as a Commercial Vehicle Fuel

The adoption of methanol as a commercial vehicle fuel is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. This is driven by several factors:

  • Increasingly stringent emissions regulations: Governments around the world are implementing stricter emissions standards for commercial vehicles, making alternative fuels like methanol more attractive.
  • Advancements in methanol production and usage technologies: The development of efficient and affordable conversion technologies and DMFCs, as well as the increasing availability of renewable methanol, are expected to drive the growth of methanol as a commercial vehicle fuel.
  • Stable and predictable fuel costs: The historically less volatile price of methanol compared to conventional fuels provides an attractive economic incentive for fleet owners.

Considering these factors, the growth rate of methanol as a commercial vehicle fuel is projected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 10-15% over the next decade.


In summary, recent advancements have positioned methanol as a viable and sustainable alternative to traditional fuels for commercial fleet vehicles. Methanol, especially when derived from renewable sources, offers a significant reduction in GHG emissions, and presents lower economic, environmental, and social costs compared to conventional fuels. With the increasing pressure to reduce emissions and the advancements in methanol technologies, the adoption of methanol as a commercial vehicle fuel is projected to grow significantly in the coming years.