General Motors Co. (GM) plans to offer compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) powered versions of its Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana cargo vans to fleet and commercial customers beginning this fall, GM said Tuesday.

The initial CNG offerings will be available on 2011 model year vans built at GM’s Wentzville, MO, plant with dedicated gaseous fuel systems and related vehicle calibrations completed at a separate facility, the automaker said. A dedicated LPG gaseous fuel system will also be offered to fleet and commercial customers on 2011 model year cutaway vans that can be configured into cube, delivery and shuttle bus vehicles.

“We’re listening to our fleet customers and dealers about offering options that help them achieve their business objectives,” said Brian Small, general manager of GM’s fleet and commercial operations. “The industry commitment to expand the CNG and LPG infrastructure in key fleet markets was an enabler to allowing us to introduce these options now.”

America’s Natural Gas Alliance CEO Regina Hopper said the introduction of GM’s alternate fuel vehicles for commercial use is “a major step forward” for natural gas fleets.

“This first-of-a-kind commercial scale offering is a strong step in expanding the use of vehicles that rely on clean fuels produced right here in America,” Hopper said. “Use of vehicles like the ones GM is providing can also reduce our dependence on overseas oil.”

Fleet use of natural gas-powered vehicles is gaining traction, with a deal last month 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 week (see Daily GPI, May 13).

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