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

Christopher DeMorro

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.