Rising Fuel Prices Bring New Interest to CNG Vehicles, Ford Says

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If you're interested in using the HOV lanes without driving a hybrid, a compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle might be for you. Ford reports that demand for its CNG vehicles has risen along with the increase in regular gas prices.

CNG is an option on the Transit Connect, E-Series vans, and F-Series Super Duty trucks. The least-expensive way to get into a CNG vehicle at a Ford dealership is in a base Transit Connect with the $315 package that converts the van to CNG or liquid propane gas. Hardened engine intake valves and exhaust valves and valve seats are part of the preparation package.

“The ability to convert the Transit Connect to CNG is a big driving force for us,” said J.J. Bell, vice president of Las Vegas-based Whittlesea Blue Cab to Ford. The company has ordered Transit Connect Taxis powered by CNG. “We are converting more and more of our fleet to this alternative fuel.”

Government incentives for CNG vehicles is certainly one reason for the alternative fuel's slowly growing acceptance. CNG refueling stations are nowhere near as prevalent as regular gas stations, but their numbers are growing.

The consistent advantage of CNG's appeal is the low price of fuel (and lower emissions). In the U.S. Department of Energy's January Clean Cities Alternative Fuel Price Report for January 2011, the price per gallon equivalent of CNG was $1.93, compared to $3.08 for regular gasoline.

Honda has long offered a CNG version of the Civic sedan. The $26,240 price on a 2011 model makes it somewhat expensive for a compact, but the 24/36 mpg city/highway efficiency, along with significantly lower per-gallon equivalent fuel costs is a strong purchase consideration factor. On the 2012 model Civic, the CNG model is expected to reach 39 mpg on the highway. For non-commercial customers looking for a CNG vehicle, the Civic remains one of the only factory options.

As for Ford, the company is counting on expanding infrastructure to fuel sales growth of CNG models.

"It turns out our timing couldn't have been better," said Gerald Koss, marketing manager for Ford fleet operations.

Source: Ford, Honda

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