Automakers Offering Bi-Fuel Pickups
Natural gas is going to be a fuel option available for some Chevrolet and GMC pickups beginning late this year. These will be bi-fuel vehicles, like the present flex-fuel vehicles (that can run on either gasoline or ethanol) but in this case, the fuel choices are gasoline and compressed natural gas (CNG). Chrysler has also announced similar plans for its Ram pickup.
There are many utilities and service companies that have pilot fleets of CNG vehicles, and the Honda Civic Natural Gas was this named this past year's Green Car of the Year. But these are all dedicated CNG vehicles. The newly announced pickups will be able to run on either gasoline or CNG.
Economics is certainly a factor in this. The cost of CNG fuel is about one third less than an equivalent amount of gasoline. But the bi-fuel option is several thousand dollars of additional cost over the base vehicle. The numbers for these vehicles are rather meager, with GM planning to build 2,500 of these pickups in the fourth quarter and Chrysler planning to build 2,000 of its trucks this year.
Overall, it's only a small step, and not without its downside. While seeing new markets for cheap CNG will have some cheering the use of this cleaner burning fuel, there are also environmental consequences lurking at the corners of the gas fracking boom that make us think this is a mixed development at best.
However, wider adoption of natural gas vehicles could lead the way to wider distribution infrastructure. While the use of fossil natural gas is still problematic in terms of CO2 emissions, methane is fairly easy to synthesize compared to gasoline, and several solar and microbial fuel processes could potentially produce gas that could be used for more vehicles in the future.
via: GM Media
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