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Pickup-Truck Brands Join Honda Civic on Natural Gas Path

Posted by Dale Buss on November 19, 2012 02:02 PM

Since we're becoming awash in natural gas these days, it's too bad Americans can't use more of it to fuel our automobiles. But that situation is changing relatively quickly.

By year-end, reports Automotive News, a handful of heavy-duty pickup trucks will join the Honda Civic as the only compressed-natural-gas (CNG) vehicles being sold by U.S. dealers to retail buyers. The Ram 2500, Chevrolet Silverado 2500 and GMC Sierra 2500 each will be available with dual-mode engines that switch between natural gas and gasoline depending on conditions.

They're priced much higher than conventionally powered models, as you might expect. The Silverado CNG version will carry a sticker price of more than $43,000, or about $11,000 more than a base Silverado, Auto News reports.

Expect the move to CNG-powered vehicles to accelerate on a retail basis as the effects of the natural-gas glut continue to wash over energy markets and as American consumers continue to get more comfortable with the notion.

As of 2011, there were more than 123,000 CNG-powered heavy-duty trucks, vocational vehicles, buses and vans, cars and pick-up trucks in the U.S., according to David Demers, CEO for a natural-gas engine company who recently wrote for Forbes on CNGs. The vast majority of those are in business fleets where operators are looking for the massive cost savings that can be provided by CNG.

The big question now, of course, is whether the American auto and energy-distribution industries could accommodate a meaningful expansion of consumer interest in natural-gas vehicles. The manufacturing procedures are similar for CNG power and gasoline powerplants, and the infrastructure challenge is manageable.

"The time for natural-gas vehicles is now," wrote Demers, head of Canada's Westport Innovations, which is based in Vancouver, B.C. "The opportunities to source natural gas, buy vehicles, refuel and drive [natural-gas vehicles] are tremenous. They're here, and the demand is going to keep growing."

The demand may be growing, but will it really move the needle and become a differentiator for car-buyers?

Comments

Charlie Waters United States says:

About seven years ago or so the U.S. Postal Service converted a number of the LLV vehicles in Houston, TX to run on both gasoline and CNG, compressed natural gas.  The performance and "gas" mileage was worse than when running on gasoline.  There was no CNG "filling station"  within a practical distance, so the vendor had to bring the CNG to our Post Office , which delivered to zones, 77070, 77064 & 77069. The refuel rig consisted of a pick-up truck that had been converted to run on CNG/gasoline pulling a trailer with nine thick walled high pressure tanks that were set up in a cascade system.  They would have to come twice a week as the rig only had enough capacity to fill half the converted LLV's on each trip.  Then when the driver up and quit the vendor, the deliveries of the CNG stopped.  We continued to drive these converted vehicles using gasoline until the USPS decided to remove the CNG conversion parts which included one of those heavy, hi pressure tanks. Then gasoline was our only option as it was before.  When the distribution infrastucture gets established, I believe that they will start to sell CNG capable vehicles retail to the general public.  Just as the cost and reliability of the batteries is holding back the sale of electric vehicles, the lack of a viable destribution system is holding back the expansion of CNG capable vehicles for the general public.  P.S,  The lack of power generation capacity is holding back the potential of supporting the number of electric vehicles that the green folks would like to see on our streets and roads. The national grid is barely able to hold it's own now, little on the thousands of projected electric vehicles that would be plugged in every nite to be ready for the next days travels.  Right now the wind farms stiil provide the modern day Don Quixotes with targets for their lances

November 20, 2012 07:00 PM #

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