Automakers like Ford are responding to high gas prices by offering more vehicles with CNG and LPG capabilities, especially for fleet customers who could see the most savings using cheaper fuels. The 2014 Ford Transit Connect Taxi not only debuts an all-new look and taxi-specific features, but also comes with a CNG/LPG prep package, allowing for easy conversions.
Natural gas and propane vehicles are gaining popularity in the U.S. as gasoline and diesel prices remain stubbornly high. Ford is one of several automakers now offering natural gas options to fleet customers, though as is the case with the CNG-powered Ford F-150, the vehicles don’t come from the factory equipped for these alternative fuels.
Rather, the 2014 Transit Connect Taxi comes with a “prep kit” that allows a Ford-qualified conversion shop to convert the taxi vans into CNG or LPG-powered vehicles. Conversion costs run between $6,000 and $9,000 per vehicle, a hefty investment on top of the price of the van itself.
However, with CNG and LPG both selling far below the cost (between $2.00 and $2.70 gallon-equivalent), fleet owners can amass big fuel savings over the life of a vehicle. The 2014 Transit Connect is powered by a 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Ford also made other changes to the 2014 Transit Connect Taxi that go beyond a face lift. The roof is lower, as is the floor, allowing for more sign clearance and easier loading. The taxi van can now fit five passengers, and has an anticipated best-in-class 60 cubic-feet of cargo room behind the second row of seats. How the CNG/LPG conversion affects that, Ford doesn’t say.
As far as alternatives to gasoline though, the Transit Connect may make the most sense when it comes down to the dollars and cents of it all.