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GM to Sell Pickups With Option to Burn Compressed Natural Gas

Monday, 05 March 2012 01:34 PM

General Motors Co., the world’s largest automaker, plans to begin taking orders in April on pickups that run on both gasoline and compressed natural gas, potentially reducing costs for users.

The Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 HD extended-cab pickups will be offered with a 6.0-liter, V-8 engine that can “seamlessly” transition between natural gas and gasoline, the Detroit-based automaker said today in a statement.

A vehicle such as the ones GM will offer can save a driver $6,000 to $10,000 in fuel costs over a three-year period because CNG is cheaper than gasoline, Joyce Mattman, director of GM commercial product and specialty vehicles, said before the announcement.

“It helps our fleet customers with their total cost of ownership,” Mattman said. “CNG is unique in that it’s not attached to the price of oil, so over time it’s maintained a lower retail price than both gasoline and diesel fuels.”

The bi-fuel option will help expand GM’s customer base for CNG products, Mattman said.

CNG-only vehicles “are a challenge when you’re using one specific fuel that doesn’t have infrastructure or support across the entire country,” Mattman said. “The range-anxiety issue is very real in this application as well.”

GM didn’t disclose the prices of the vehicles, and any premium over gasoline-only cars might offset savings on fuel.

Fueling Stations

Natural gas costs on average one-third less than conventional gasoline and there are 1,000 CNG-fueling stations in the U.S., of which about half are open to the public, according to Natural Gas Vehicles for America, a trade group based in Washington.

Mattman declined to say how many CNG pickups GM plans to sell.

The CNG vehicles are part of a broader strategy by GM to offer alternative-fuel vehicles, including the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt. The Volt can go about 40 miles on electricity before a gasoline engine kicks in and powers a generator to recharge the battery. The vehicle is aimed at customers who are worried about range.

GM began selling CNG cargo vans in 2010. Honda Motor Co. sells a CNG version of the Civic sedan in the U.S. Chrysler Group LLC has said it will bring a CNG pickup to the U.S. this year for fleet customers.

Engine Costs

The additional cost for an engine using natural gas is $3,000, compared with $3,300 for diesel and $8,000 for an electric hybrid, Alfredo Altavilla , who heads Fiat SpA’s Iveco truck unit, said in September 2010, when Fiat laid out its natural-gas aspirations. Fiat is the majority owner of Chrysler.

GM said bi-fuel pickups will be offered to both commercial and retail customers and be delivered late this year.

The truck, which will be covered by GM’s three-year, 36,000-mile warranty and five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, will be built in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and sent to a supplier for installation of the fuel system and tank, the company said.

The pickups will have tanks that can hold the equivalent of 17 gallons (64 liters) of CNG and a 36-gallon tank of gasoline, giving the vehicles a combined range of more than 650 miles (1,000 kilometers), said Mike Jones, product manager for GM’s fleet and commercial operations. He declined to break out the range obtainable on CNG alone.

“The broadest range of usage of this is going to be in the commercial market,” he said.

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Monday, 05 March 2012 01:34 PM
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