Natural gas for use in the fleet transportation sector continues to make inroads, as evidenced by the recent news out of Ford Motor Co. that sales of Ford trucks with engines prepped for compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) catapulted more than 350% from 2009 to 2012.

As a result of the increased customer demand for natural gas vehicles (NGV), Ford said Tuesday it is expanding its portfolio of product offerings in the growing alternative-fuel market segment.

“Since 2009, we’ve seen the number of Built Ford Tough commercial vehicles sold with factory-prepped engines for CNG/LPG upfit increase by more than 350%,” said Jon Coleman, Ford Fleet Sustainability and Technology manager. “To expand power of choice for our commercial customers, we are offering CNG/LPG prepped engines in additional vehicle nameplates — from the Transit Connect compact van up to medium-duty F-650 models.”

Ford said it believes demand for NGVs is on the rise due to the fact that gasoline prices continue to fluctuate widely, while CNG prices remain relatively stable. CNG currently sells for an average of $2.10/gallon, while unleaded regular fuel is selling for a national average of $3.78/gallon, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report.

Recently, the NGV movement has been gaining momentum within the United States (see Daily GPI, Feb. 25). American Honda is coming off a record sales year for its CNG Civic models (see Daily GPI, Dec. 10, 2012).

Last month, a California-based U.S. subsidiary of Italy’s Landi Renzo reported that it has developed a bi-fuel CNG-gasoline upfit system for Ford F-450 and F-550 heavy-duty trucks, noting that they will be available for shipping in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, San Francisco-based Pacific Gas and Electric Co. said it plans to order 50 CNG-gasoline bi-fuel pickup trucks from General Motors (GM). Separately, the multi-billion-dollar combination utility said it also plans to order “dozens” of additional plug-in hybrid electric vehicles from both GM and Ford.

Another statewide program in Maryland has budgeted $400,000 for a natural gas voucher program, under which fleet operators can apply for vouchers to offset the cost of CNG vehicles of up to $20,000/vehicle for those with gross weights of more than 26,000 pounds.

Other companies and fleet customers are also making long-term commitments to CNG. The city of Indianapolis has committed to shifting its cars, heavy trucks and police cruisers to a mix of electricity and natural gas, aiming to eliminate use of conventional gas and diesel fuels by 2025 (see Daily GPI, Dec. 24, 2012).

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