Chrysler To Begin Selling CNG Pickups This Year


On Wednesday, President Barack Obama laid out his vision for America’s future energy destiny, citing shale gas formations as one of many potential fuels to reduce our oil dependency. Indeed, many pundits and economists talk about the natural gas economy. The only problem? The lack of CNG-powered cars in America. Honda was first out the gate with a CNG Civic, and now Chrysler has quietly announced plans to begin selling CNG Ram pickups to fleet owners this year.In an interview with Bloomberg, Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne was asked about natural gas-powered pickups. He responded by saying that Chrysler is “absolutely” going “bring them here,” here being America. Rumors of CNG Ram pickups have been swirling for some time, and a Chrysler spokesmen says that sales will begin to fleet owners at first, implying that regular retail buyers will eventually get their hands on CNG pickups as well.

That’s good news for truck buyers looking for an alternative to gasoline or diesel engines, though this is hardly the first time automakers have offered alt-fuel pickups and vans. At the turn of the millenium Ford, GM, and Chrysler all offered CNG versions of their popular work vehicles, though the quality of these conversions was questionable at best. Today Ford offers CNG versions of their largest trucks, GM sells CNG-powered work vans, and Chrysler has been considering CNG pickups for at least a year

However, the Big Three are  totally different companies compared to ten years ago, and alt-fuel technology has also come a long way. The estimated cost of CNG technology over a similar gas engine is about $3,000 per vehicle, compared to $3,300 for diesel and over $8,000 for hybrid systems. However, diesel vehicles tend to get much better MPG compared to gas engines, while CNG-powered engines tend to do worse.

The only saving grace would be CNG’s lower cost. Diesel is quite expensive here in America, hovering about 50-cents a gallon more than gasoline. CNG is priced around $2.60 a gallon-equivalent here in New England, and for fleet operators a savings of over a dollar a gallon could translate into big dollar signs, quickly paying off the price of the CNG engine premium.

Is CNG for pickup trucks a viable option for business owners? I think so, as long as the price remains low compared to gas or diesel. And if it gets more vehicles off the oil standard, all the better say I. Do you agree?

Source: Bloomberg

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he’s running, because he’s one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • Cory

    While I do agree that we need to “get more vehicles off of the oil standard,” CNG should not be the way to do it. At the very best it is an equally dangerous stepping stone in the road to break oil dependency. Hydraulic fracturing pollutes ground water and causes earthquakes (here in Oklahoma) while CNG production releases carcinogenic gasses into the atmosphere. I once loved the idea, but now that I’ve seen how CNG is acquired, refined, and promoted, I think otherwise. If you haven’t seen it, Josh Fox’s Gasland is a great documentary about Josh’s investigation of CNG production after an offer was made on his land to drill.

    • @ Cory

      There is no perfect solution. I am of the mind that anything that isn’t oil is a good start.

      You are right, fracking is dangerous. So is mining for the rare earth elements required for make electric vehicles, or messing around with our food supply to make ethanol. I’m with Obama on the “all-in” strategy.

  • Jack

    #NGV is the way to go. It is not even a question. As our government wants to continue to buy oil from across the ocean at high prices which help to drive our economy into the ground and become a thirld world country.
    We have coal, oil and gas for years to come and we need to go after it with a passion. And the XL-Pipe line is a no-brainer. Get it going now.
    However make sure the steel is from US steel mills.
    Make sure the workers are non-union.
    Make sure the oil stays in the USA and is not sold across the sea.
    Then begin to build Natural Gas fueling stations across America. Do you realize we could have built 350 refueling stations with the 350 million that our foolish government gave to the Solar Co. Solarynda?
    Our leaders need to be replaced with those who seek the best for America and not their power and pocket books.