Natural gas may be the next fuel in the country’s portfolio of alternatives to combat dependence on foreign oil. General Motors announced today that it will begin taking orders for new bi-fuel compressed natural gas (CNG) versions of its ¾-ton Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups.
The trucks have a large compressed natural gas tank in the bed that looks like a large toolbox. The CNG filler resides under a flap on the left side of the tank, above the rail of the pickup bed. A 6.0-liter V8 engine can be switched from running on CNG to gasoline and back via a switch on the dashboard.
The CNG Sierra and Silverado will be only be available in extended-cab 2500 HD form, with either a long or short bed and two- or four-wheel drive. GM claims with the two fuel sources, the trucks will have a combined range of 650 miles.
Compared with gasoline, CNG typically produces much cleaner emissions while providing similar fuel economy, performance, and driveability. Its relative energy cost can be much less than gasoline when using a convenient home-fueling station. And it’s mostly a domestically produced energy source; 85 percent of the CNG consumed in the United States is also produced here. On the other hand, CNG vehicles have traditionally been priced thousands of dollars higher than a similar gasoline-powered version, public refueling stations are relatively rare, and CNG is not available at all—even for home fueling—in some areas.
Pricing for the CNG Sierra and Silverado has not yet been set, but customers will be able to order the CNG package starting April. 1. GM says production will begin late in the fourth quarter of this year.
Visit our guide to alternative fuels.