• The new Ram CNG starts at $47,500 including destination
  • The truck offers a "range extending" gas engine
  • Natural gas is far cheaper than traditional gasoline

The newest version of the full-size Ram pickup will run on compressed natural gas. That's the latest from Chrysler, who recently announced several details about the upcoming Ram 2500HD Compressed Natural Gas including finalized pricing and an on-sale date.

According to Chrysler, the Ram 2500HD CNG will start at a whopping $47,500 including destination when it goes on sale in July. While Chrysler hasn't announced final specs for the Ram 2500HD CNG, including standard equipment and available features, the automaker did say the alternative fuel pickup will be offered as a four-wheel drive Crew Cab model in ST and SLT trim levels. Gasoline versions of the same truck start around $35,500.

But while gas-powered Ram 2500 models might be cheaper to buy, Chrysler expects the trucks to be popular with high-mileage drivers looking to save money on fuel. While the average gallon of regular gasoline is hovering around $3.80 today, the equivalent amount of compressed natural gas costs just $2.59 - a savings of more than $40 per fill-up of the truck's massive 34-gallon gas tank. That might be too good to pass up for drivers who live near a compressed natural gas fuel source.

In spite of the truck's unconventional power source, Ram 2500HD CNG buyers won't have to sacrifice the pickup's legendary muscular engine power to save on fuel. According to Chrysler, the pickup still features a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 under the hood, although it's now supplemented by two large compressed natural gas tanks and one eight-gallon gasoline tank. Chrysler says that when the truck runs out of compressed natural gas, its standard gasoline engine will kick in, much like the "range extending" gasoline engine on several of today's plug-in hybrid electric cars. The Ram 2500HD CNG can travel up to 255 miles on pure natural gas, while the backup gasoline engine increases its range to 367 miles.

Although there are around 1,500 natural gas refueling stations nationwide, many more will likely pop up if the alternative fuel gains acceptance among automakers. While the technology is still relatively new in cars, Honda has offered a natural gas-powered Civic in the US since the late 1990s. General Motors also recently announced plans to offer a natural gas powerplant for its full-size Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD and GMC Sierra 2500HD pickups for the 2013 model year, giving the Ram some close competition in an otherwise sparsely populated market segment.

What it means to you: If you're looking for an efficient new truck, don't be afraid to consider the new natural gas-powered Ram.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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