GM will be selling a commercial compressed natural gas pick up truck in the fourth quarter of 2012. The full-size pick up trucks will be bi-fuel, meaning they will be able to run on both compressed natural gas and gasoline. No pricing information has been announced yet.
While the company has not announced which models will come with bi-fuel compatibilities, speculations suggest it could be the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra. GM already produces CNG versions of the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana cargo vans, which use a 6.0L V8 engine. However, these vans are not bi-fuel compatible.
Currently, there are less than 1,000 CNG stations in the United States, but the CNG vans can travel 300 miles between fill ups and pumps can be installed at home. With the limited amount of CNG stations, the advantage of bi-fuel capability is clear: drivers will be able to travel in areas that don’t yet have CNG stations. They will also have the ability to switch between CNG and regular gasoline at the press of a button.
Despite the rarity of CNG cars – only one manufacturer, Honda, produces a CNG vehicle for consumers – studies suggest that CNG vehicles will become much more popular and sales will take off. By 2016, sales are expected to quadruple to 33,000 units per year.
As an alternative fuel source, compressed natural gas certainly looks good on paper. On average, it costs less than $2.00 nationwide for the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline, with prices as low as $.78 in Oklahoma. It’s clean burning and produced domestically. So when we compare it with gasoline, it has a better price, is better for the environment, and is produced in the United States. How successful will it be in the market? We’ll just have to wait and see.