When Chevrolet offered us the 2015 Silverado with dual-fuel capability, we planned phase two of our landscaping project. Surely, whether on regular unleaded or compressed natural gas, this Silverado would be capable. But the truck arrived, and we canceled plans. The CNG tank, shrouded in black diamond plate, takes up so much cargo bed that receiving a scoop of crushed stone would be impossible. Which raised questions: who will drive this compromised truck, and how will it be used?
Our topaz blue metallic Silverado 2500 4WD LT Crew Cab changed from gasoline to CNG with a center console switch. The engine shuddered faintly for two or three seconds, and then the fuel gauge needle moved, now showing the CNG level. The dual-fuel system is a $9500 option; Chevrolet says operating on CNG for 75 percent of the time at 26,000 miles per year will save more than $2000 annually. In other words, the break-even point comes after four years, nine months, 104,000 miles. Our refill location, a lonely unlighted island outside the water district's yard, is found six blocks from our usual gas station. It dispenses the CNG at 3600 pounds of pressure, charging the equivalent of $2.95 per gallon (compared to $3.93 per gallon for regular at our usual place). A percentage-full indicator ticks away on the pump to monitor filling; the absolute quantity reads out as gallons equivalent. There's no station proper, no candy bars, no restroom.
Of course, to get something, you give up something. In this case, when the 6.0-liter V-8 inhales a mixture of air and CNG instead of gasoline, output drops by 16.4 percent, from 360 hp to 301 hp. Torque drops 12.4 percent, from 380 lb-ft to 333 lb-ft. Payload falls from 4306 lb to 3651 lb. Towing is unchanged, with 13,000 lb. maximum via either fuel supply. Acceleration on the lighter gas was still robust, the engine note familiar and burly.
Our landscaping can wait till fall. Meanwhile, a Chevy spokesman says this truck's typical buyer operates a fleet with his own fueling station and some requirement by the federal government to run alternative-fuel vehicles. Or it's an energy company whose employees maintain pipelines and need only enough cargo room for tools and equipment. (In this case, a tax credit may apply.) But we're told the retail segment is growing. The dual-fuel Silverado may never carry a scoop of pea gravel, but could be just the thing for the road warrior who can live without the most fundamental aspect of a pickup's utility: the full cargo bed.
2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 4WD LT Crew Cab CNG
|Price as tested||$58,800|
|Power||360 hp @ 5400 rpm (gas), 301 hp @ 5000 rpm (CNG)|
|Torque||380 lb-ft @ 5400 rpm (gas), 301 lb-ft @ 4200 rpm (CNG)|
|Cargo capacity||61 cu ft|