Cars running on natural gas emit 25% less greenhouse gases than those using even the cleanest petrol. And as fleet operators have known for some time, gas is also half the price.
Last year, Fiat sold 10,000 Multipla cars, the first natural-gas vehicle (NGV) aimed at families. Retailing at EUR15,000 (pounds 9,300), the Multipla is 13% dearer than petrol equivalents but performs just as well.
Fuel-conscious Italy runs all but 20,000 of the 400,000 NGVs in Europe. Once ExxonMobil is joined by other oil firms in showing interest in gas and each station gains a base of 750 regular customers, a European NGV infrastructure starts to make business sense - especially if, as Brussels intends, more liberal gas markets come on stream.