by InvestorPlace Staff | March 5, 2012 1:02 pm
Here comes more oomph for the burgeoning move toward alternatives to strictly gasoline-powered vehicles. General Motors (NYSE:GM) on Monday announced that it’s producing pickup trucks that run on compressed natural gas (CNG) as well as conventional gasoline. And Chrysler is set to make a similar announcement on Tuesdsay, according to The Wall Street Journal.
GM says its dealers will start taking orders from consumers and fleet operators in April. The CNG-powered option will be available on Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 HD extended-cab pickup trucks. GM calls its new vehicles “bi-fuel” pickups.
“The bi-fuel truck provides businesses with added re-fueling flexibility and eases consumer range concerns that typically come with CNG, all while reducing emissions and controlling costs,” said Joyce Mattman, director of GM Commercial Product and Specialty Vehicles in a statement. GM points out that the conversion to the bi-fuel system is being done before delivery to customers, which it says “makes ordering the bi-fuel option as seamless and efficient as a standard vehicle.”
The bi-fuel pickups, which are built in Fort Wayne, Ind., will get a boost in range to around 650 miles, according to GM.
Chrysler’s plans appear a bit more limited. The Journal article says the company will produce 2,000 bi-fuel Ram pickups this year. The trucks would get about 225 miles per tank of CNG, then switch to gasoline for an additional 125 miles. Its pickups would be built in a Mexican plant and outfitted for CNG before delivery also.
GM and Chrysler, which is part of Italy’s Fiat (PINK:FIATY) are actually playing a little bit of catch-up in the bi-fuel pickup market. Ford (NYSE:F) has been “offering CNG prep kits for about a half-dozen vehicles, including the Transit Connect, since 2009. It will expand the offering to its large Ford 650 pickup truck in the third quarter,” according to the Journal, which adds that Ford will switch to factory-build CNG vehicles “once demand increases.”
For that, all three carmakers might have to wait until the U.S. has far more than the current 400 CNG filling stations.
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