Ford will introduce a compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) engine prep package for its F-450 and F-550 Super Duty pickup trucks later this year, the automaker told approximately 500 North American fleet customers Monday.

The engine will come with hardened exhaust valves and valve seats for improved wear resistance and durability for gaseous fuel systems, Ford said.

CNG/LPG capability will also be added to Ford’s F-53 motor home chassis and a new F-59 commercial strip chassis, Ford said. The company last year introduced the same option on its E-Series and other commercial fleet vehicles and said it has shipped to fleet operators approximately 3,000 E-Series vans with CNG/LPG-prepped engines.

Last month General Motors Co. said it plans to offer CNG/LPG powered versions of its Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana cargo vans to fleet and commercial customers beginning this fall (see Daily GPI, May 19).

Fleet use of natural gas-powered vehicles is gaining traction, with a recent deal for Clean Energy Fuels Corp. subsidiary BAF to convert 501 Ford E-250 Series vans to CNG power for telecommunications provider Verizon (see Daily GPI, April 23). Seal Beach, CA-based Clean Energy Fuels also recently signed a five-year contract with SuperShuttle International to provide it with CNG for its vehicles at major airports throughout the United States (see Daily GPI, May 4).

Natural gas-fueled vehicles offer the strongest foreign oil-displacement message of all alternative fuels, and while there are only about 120,000 of them on U.S. roads now, they’re a growing force for energy independence and cleaner air, Richard Kolodziej, president of Natural Gas Vehicles for America (NGVAmerica) told attendees at GasMart 2010 in Chicago last month (see Daily GPI, May 13).

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