The plug-in hybrid Ram is not going to be built for public purchase. That’s a kick in the balls of taxpayers if you ask me. Instead, Chrysler is considering compressed natural gas, or CNG, to clean up pickup emissions.
CNG and LPG (essentially methane and propane, respectively) pickup trucks are nothing new. Ford, GM, and Chrysler have all built these vehicles before to satisfy the air quality standards set by the California Air Resources Board. Of course, unless you were in the know you probably didn’t hear about these vehicles, because the Big Three didn’t bother advertising them. With higher fuel economy standards for cars and trucks coming in 2016 though, American automakers have to find a way to clean up their best selling vehicles.
Even though Chrysler has used a $48 million government grant to build a test fleet of 120 plug-in Ram hybrid pickups, they have no plans to produce these vehicles, despite an impressive 20-mile all-electric range and a 65% improvement in gas mileage. Instead, they are likely to pursue CNG as their alternative fuel of choice. Fiat is Europe’s largest builder of CNG vehicles and owns much of the commercial CNG vehicle market as well. So a CNG Chrysler sort of makes sense. Plus CNG vehicles earn “bonus points” towards making the new EPA fuel economy numbers, much like electric vehicles do, but without the billions of dollars in development costs.
Natural gas refueling stations are fairly common across the country, and America is sitting on huge stores of natural gas. So making a transition from oil to natural gas seems to make sense, but will it translate into dollar signs? Only if Chrysler markets it right. The Pentastar is introducing low-priced base V8 pickups, the Tradesman and Adventurer (pictured above) as a way to undercut the competition’s prices. Adding a CNG system is only going to drive costs up. But if they can figure out how to sell it at a price point that is competitive with gas engines, they might be able to convert a few believers.
Would you buy a CNG Ram pickup?
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMI’s. You can follow his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout.