Bi-fuel option for GM pickups will cost $11,000

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Chevrolet Silverado

Ram and GM are releasing bi-fuel pickups that run on natural gas and gasoline, which will be an $11,000 option on Chevrolet and GMC trucks. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Not long ago, Ram and General Motors both announced bi-fuel systems for certain pickups models, which would allow them to run on Compressed Natural Gas as well as gasoline. GM has just announced the pricing, and it costs an extra $11,000 for the bi-fuel system.

Flexible on fuel

A few months ago Ram, formerly the truck division of Dodge but now its own brand, and General Motors announced that 2013 three-quarter ton pickup models would join the alternative fuel craze by adding a compressed natural gas fuel option. Ram, according to Inside Line, is installing the bi-fuel system in the Ram 2500 and General Motors is offering it on the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 HD models.

Both the Ram and GM trucks have a tank for compressed natural gas (CNG) mounted inside a tool box at the front of the truck bed. The driver merely hits a switch, and the truck transitions over to running on CNG.

Benefits of CNG

There are some benefits to using natural gas instead of gasoline, and a small cadre of people have been converting vehicles for some time. Natural gas is any gas with a heavy concentration of methane, according to Popular Mechanics, and is often a by-product of petroleum extraction. Once captured, the gas is refined for use as a fuel.

[A prospective buyer should do a good amount of research to find the best car to buy]

When burned, carbon dioxide emissions are 25 less than that of gasoline. Other greenhouse gas emissions are also reduced 20 percent. A higher fuel-to-air compression ratio and an engine capable of coping with higher compression are required. However, more car makers are producing flex-fuel engines, such as the Chrysler Pentastar V-6.

Natural gas is cheaper than gasoline. Currently, according to Inside Line, the equivalent volume of natural gas to one gallon of gasoline is less than $1.90, compared to almost $4 for gasoline. Performance and mileage, according to Popular Mechanics, is roughly equivalent.

The hitch

All three trucks will be expensive. The base Ram 2500 CNG, according to Inside Line, starts at $47,500 after a $995 destination fee. Base prices for 2013 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 HD models aren’t out yet, but the base price will be at least $43,000 with the CNG system.

According to AutoWeek, the $11,000 premium for the CNG bi-fuel system would require the owner of a Chevy or GMC 2500 CNG pickup 80,000 miles on CNG in order to recoup the difference in price. Assuming typical annual mileage of 15,000 miles, it pays it off in less than six years, assuming natural gas prices remain roughly half the cost of gas.

Most states also lack extensive networks of CNG fueling stations. According to Popular Mechanics, there are 941 CNG fueling stations nationwide and installing the equipment that can compress the gas to the requisite 3600 psi is prohibitively expensive, costing $750,000 for a gas station to install.


Inside Line

Popular Mechanics


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