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GM and Chrysler Announce Bi-Fuel Pick-Up That Run On CNG Or Gasoline

General Motors and Chrysler are about to make it much easier to go green if you are driving a full size pick-up. They are going to start selling pickup trucks that can seamlessly switch between natural gas and regular old gasoline. These specialty trucks have two separate tanks and allow drivers to choose the fuel they want to use and if they run out of one type of fuel the truck automatically switches to the other.

The dual fuel ability of these trucks is an important step in the battle to win over customers who are interested in the cost savings and improved environmental impact of compressed natural gas (CNG) but have concerns about running of out natural gas in an area where finding a refilling station would be almost impossible. Having the backup of regular gasoline will hopefully give drivers the confidence to switch.

Currently there are only 1,000 CNG fueling stations across the country and only half of those are available to the public. Despite the low number of fueling stations almost all natural gas vehicle sold in the U.S are CNG-only which has limited sales. The reason bi-fuel vehicles have not been available before now is due to tax breaks that were only available for straight CNG cars and trucks.

This has limited sales of CNG vehicles. According to the latest statistics, there were only 112,000 CNG cars and trucks out on the roads as of December 2010. The majority of these are heavy-duty vehicles such as delivery trucks and city buses that are returned to a central base each evening to refuel. Passenger cars and trucks have yet to dent the market but GM and Chrysler hope to change that with these new pick-ups.

CNG offers big cost savings over regular fuel. What would be an equivalent amount of CNG to a gallon of gasoline runs about $2.00 cheaper than gasoline. As fracking and other processes have made natural gas more abundant in the United States the price continues to drop. Driving a CNG car could save the vehicle owner thousands of dollars a year.

Some of that savings will be eaten up by upfront costs. A CNG only and bi-fuel cars are more expensive than a pure gasoline version. CNG advocates are pushing for new tax breaks which would help buyers bring down the cost. GM and Chrysler are putting their bi-fuel trucks into the market regardless of whether the tax breaks become reality, mainly due to businesses looking to shave their operating costs.

Both the GM and Chrysler version of the pick-up will sacrifice some cargo space in the bed of the truck to accommodate the CNG tank but both will be able to handle the same cargo weight and towing capacity as the straight gas version of the truck.

GM recently announced that the bi-fuel versions would be available for the 2013 heavy-duty trucks, the GMC Sierra 2500 and the Chevrolet Silverado. While these vehicles will be available to the general public, GM predicts that businesses and fleet sales will make up most of the sales. Pricing was not available at the time of the press release.

Chrysler also announced a bi-fuel Ram 2500 which will only be available to fleet customers. The bi-fuel version will run about $12,000 more than the tradition gasoline version.

GM and Chrysler are introducing bi-fuel pickup trucks that will let users switch between compressed natural gas and regular gasoline. While these vehicles will cost more upfront, the fuel savings will quickly cover the costs. GM and Chrysler expect most sales to come from fleets and businesses but hope they will also convince the public to embrace CNG cars and trucks.