Ford Motor Co. (F) sees investing in its EcoBoost engines and electric vehicles as “more solid bets” than compressed natural gas powertrains, which General Motors Co. (GM) and Chrysler Group LLC are putting into pickups this year.
Refueling infrastructure is limited and the low density of natural gas makes it difficult to store or transport by vehicle, said Raj Nair, who becomes Ford’s group vice president of global product development on April 1.
Those disadvantages mean Ford, whose F-Series pickups have been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for 30 consecutive years, will emphasize other technologies, Nair said in an interview this week at the Geneva motor show. GM will begin taking orders next month for pickups that run on both gasoline and compressed natural gas, while Chrysler expects to deliver trucks with similar technology to fleet buyers in July.
“Relative to what we’re achieving with EcoBoost and our electrification strategy in the U.S., what we’re achieving with the diesel strategy here in Europe and elsewhere, those are more solid bets to put really solid investments in for mainstream offerings,” Nair said.
Ford last year introduced its first EcoBoost engine for F- Series pickups. EcoBoost uses direct fuel injection and turbocharging to increase fuel economy. Trucks equipped with that engine accounted for more than 40 percent of the model line’s retail sales by December and 43 percent in February, the Dearborn, Michigan-based company said.
GM’s Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 HD extended- cab pickups will be offered with a 6.0-liter, V-8 engine that can “seamlessly” transition between natural gas and gasoline, the Detroit-based automaker said in a March 5 statement.
Chrysler’s Ram 2500 Heavy Duty CNG pickup for fleet and commercial customers will feature both compressed gas storage tanks and an eight-gallon conventional gasoline fuel tank, the Auburn Hills, Michigan-based automaker said in a March 6 statement. Fiat SpA (F), which owns 58.5 percent of Chrysler, has engines using compressed natural gas in Europe.
Natural gas costs on average one-third less than conventional gasoline and there are 1,000 CNG-fueling stations in the U.S., of which about half are open to the public, according to Natural Gas Vehicles for America, a trade group based in Washington.
Ford is offering to do conversions for pickups that would allow them to run on natural gas, Nair said. The market for trucks using the technology will be “very dependent on what the regulatory environment is going to be.” Nair didn’t provide pricing details.
Ford is selling an electric version of its Focus compact in the first half of this year. The car was certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to offer the equivalent of 105 miles (169 kilometers) per gallon of gasoline, the automaker said on March 2.
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