Ford Bets On Ecoboost, Chrysler And GM On Natural Gas For Pickups

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
ford bets on ecoboost chrysler and gm on natural gas for pickups

While both General Motors and Chrysler are putting their money on Compressed Natural Gas options for their pickup-truck lineups, Ford is going with pretty much everything but CNG as it examines alternative fuel strategies for future vehicles – and for now, the 3.5L Ecoboost V6 will be the standard bearer for light duty versions of the Ford F-Series.

Automotive News spoke with Ford product development boss Raj Nair, who told the outlet

“Relative to what we’re achieving with EcoBoost and our electrification strategy in the U.S., what we’re achieving with the diesel strategy here in Europe and elsewhere, those are more solid bets to put really solid investments in for mainstream offerings,”

Nair also cited CNG’s lack of infrastructure as another reason to avoid CNG. But Chrysler’s Ram Tradesman pickup will come in a CNG powered variant, while GM will offer a Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra with a 6.0L V8 that can switch between CNG and regular gasoline.

Buried in the article is a quote from Nair stating that Ford will

“…do conversions for pickups that would allow them to run on natural gas, Nair said. The market for trucks using the technology will be “very dependent on what the regulatory environment is going to be.”

So, Ford is still hedging their bets, and looking to see if this “Made in America” fuel will get the kind of economic incentives that EVs and plug-ins are privy to. Chrysler and GM will join Honda as the big purveyors of CNG powered cars in the United States – Honda sells the Civic GX in small volumes.

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  • Lw Lw on Mar 12, 2012

    A lot depends on who wins the senate and the whitehouse. If both go republican, then things will most likely shift dramatically. If the dems retain at least one, then we probably stay where we are at now. Ford is smart to hang back and the ability to go all in with CNG is pretty easy/quick.

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    • Charly Charly on Mar 12, 2012

      @forraymond Not America is a bigger market for Ford and GM. And pickups are something American (or Thai) but the engines in them are part of a family that is also sold in Europe and China.

  • NMGOM NMGOM on Mar 12, 2012

    Some problems with any gaseous fuel are: 1) Poorer lubrication for the top pistons ring (as BMW found out with H2-Seven cars); 2) Lower energy density; 3) Requirement for larger fuel-cell storage on board; 4) Poorer vehicle overall range (like electric cars); 5) Little easily available fueling infrastructure; 6) More complex and costly tank-to-engine delivery system; 7) Increased vehicle weight, with consequent poorer handling, all else equal. Yes, some or most of these can eventually be overcome, but how much more per vehicle do we want to pay? An alternative biomass fuel that seems to be almost unmentioned and not emphasized, would be butanol, whose characteristics are almost identical to premium gasoline, but can obviously be "home grown" here or in neighboring areas in the Western hemisphere.

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    • Highdesertcat Highdesertcat on Mar 13, 2012

      @highdesertcat charly, she wrote in her comments that she had no place to charge it where she lives, but that she does at her place of employment. Her only complaint was that she had to feed the Volt Premium gas so obviously her daily driving range was greater than the capacity of the battery, necessitating the AC generator to come on to get her home and back to work each day. Maybe she needed that $7500 tax credit. Who knows why people buy what they buy? To me it seems that a Prius or a Cruze would have worked for her, but maybe she needed to project the flag-waving patriotic image that you get with buying a Volt from a bailed-out, nationalized auto manufacturer.

  • Crosley Crosley on Mar 12, 2012

    CNG is about as perfect a silver bullet as we can find until other technologies become more mature. Unfortunately, most environmentalists only want to talk about electric cars, anything that could possibly benefit the oil and gas industry MUST be from Satan. The irony is, most electric cars will likely be powered by : natural gas power plants.

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    • Redav Redav on Mar 13, 2012

      @charly There's no need for a one-size fits all solution. There is great benefit to expanded use of CNG in the US, so it should be done. A solution that's good for Europe should be rolled out in Europe.

  • Dtremit Dtremit on Mar 13, 2012

    I'm not sure how CNG conversions are news -- Ford has supported plenty of them for years. E.g., here's an article from 2010 talking about E-series conversions: Anyone looking to make CNG a major factor in retail vehicle sales is missing the prize, I say -- it's much more realistic as a fleet tool. I'd rather be seeing CNG press releases from Freightliner than Ford.