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Chrysler to Bring Natural Gas Trucks to US

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author photo by Jeffrey Archer January 2012
  • Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne confirmed the plans in a recent interview.
  • The pickups will first be offered to fleet operators.
  • Although uncommon, natural gas can be a cost effective choice for fleets.

Chrysler will soon offer natural gas-powered pickups in the United States. So says the automaker's chief executive, Sergio Marchionne, who recently announced that Chrysler could offer a limited supply of the alternative fuel trucks in the US as early as this year.

"We are going to bring them here, there is no doubt," said Marchionne in an interview with Bloomberg, cautioning that supply will be "limited at first. It depends on the distribution network."

According to Marchionne, natural gas power is the best option for fleet operators due to its low cost and impressive fuel economy. That view is supported by the chief executive of FIAT's Iveco truck unit, Alfredo Altavilla, who recently estimated the additional cost of an engine using natural gas at $3,000, versus $3,300 for diesel and a shocking $8,000 for hybrid technology.

Although natural gas power offers considerable benefits, the alternative fuel source faces a substantial infrastructure disadvantage compared to traditional gasoline and even diesel fuels. In 2010, there were around 1,000 natural gas refueling stations, compared to tens of thousands stations that offered both gasoline and diesel. That limits the appeal of natural gas power, despite attractive pricing of just over $2 per gallon on average - nearly $1.50 less than the typical gallon of gasoline.

But despite the infrastructure problem, several automakers offer natural gas-powered vehicles to varying degrees of success. Honda recently took home Green Car Journal's "Green Car of the Year" award for the 2012 Civic Natural Gas, which runs on compressed natural gas and achieves nearly 50 miles per gallon "equivalent," an EPA gas mileage designation for alternative fuel vehicles. In addition, several other automakers including Ford and General Motors offer natural gas-powered vehicles to the government and private fleet operators like taxi services.

While Chrysler announced the first natural gas-powered trucks will be aimed at fleet customers, the automaker didn't say when they would appear or how much they would cost. Nonetheless, consumers who live near a refueling station might be wise to keep the trucks in mind before making a decision on their next pickup.

What it means to you: Despite the popularity of hybrids, natural gas power is a less expensive way to get tremendous fuel economy.

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Chrysler to Bring Natural Gas Trucks to US - Autotrader