Dealers Are Cleared to Sell the Truck – Thousands in 2013?
Chrysler has cleared the way for dealers to sell the new Ram 2500 CNG, which is being built on a regular production line alongside conventional Ram trucks in Saltillo, Mexico – no ship-through. And while not revealing details, the manufacturer says it expects to sell several thousands of the bi-fuel vehicles in its first year.
The compressed natural gas-gasoline bi-fuel Ram 2500 CNG carries a price premium of $9,300 over a gasoline equivalent. Given currently high gasoline and diesel prices, “You get paid back inside of 24 months for your investment in CNG,” says Chrysler network development and fleet VP Peter Grady.
Grady pegs the current market for CNG pickups at “only about 20,000 units a year.”
But, “We’re going to get several thousands of those,” he told F&F Friday. Sales thus far have “exceeded our expectations,” he says. Initial customers are coming from the gas industry itself – both utility fleet and exploration and production (E&P) operators, and from small business operators looking to save money on fuel. Sales have been best where there is the most CNG fueling infrastructure: in California, Utah, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, Grady says.
Later, as a true infrastructure develops, “The retail demand will definitely follow.”
“We know that this is going to be a fairly slow go for a while,” Grady says.
The bi-fuel Ram 2500 CNG has an eight-gallon gasoline tank (a 35-gallon gasoline tank is available as an option in Canada) – more than limp-home capability, but far less than the 18.2 GGE (gasoline gallon equivalents) held in the vehicle’s two bed-mounted Type I CNG tanks. CNG range is from 250 to 300 miles.
Aside from a small amount used for engine starting, the truck will run on gasoline only when the CNG is depleted – the driver has no control. The CNG-favoring design helps qualify the vehicle for purchase incentives, Grady says.
‘No Degradation in Torque’
The bi-fuel CNG truck features Chrysler’s 5.7-liter Hemi modified engine with redesigned cylinder heads and CNG-compatible valves and valve-seat materials. The engine also has a second, CNG-specific fuel rail and injectors, Chrysler says. “New spark plugs improve combustion and durability, and a new powertrain control module allows the Hemi to seamlessly operate on either of the two fuel sources.”
According to Grady, “There is no degradation in torque” as compared with a gasoline Hemi engine. Given the work mission of a heavy pickup, “Everybody’s going to value torque more than horsepower,” he says.
The Ram 2500 Heavy Duty CNG’s twin (130-liter water volume) CNG tanks are mounted in the forward portion of the truck’s 8-foot pickup bed. Both tanks are fixed to the frame and covered by a painted, 50-ksi high-strength steel cover. The CNG filler connection is located next to the gasoline fuel neck, accessed through the Ram’s fuel filler door.
The cover is able to handle the same loads that can be placed in the truck bed, Chrysler regional (West) truck account manager Jeremy brown noted at a light duty natural gas vehicles workshop hosted late last month by Southern California Gas in Downey, Calif. (F&F, September 17).
Brown and Grady both cite Chrysler’s ability to draw on Fiat engineering for the new pickup. “Fiat is the world’s largest producer of CNG vehicles,” Brown said in Downey, with an 80% market share in Europe (and, reportedly, 90% in Italy).
The Ram 2500 CNG is fully certified by both the U.S. EPA and the California Air Resources Board – a given, Grady says, for an OEM vehicle.
“It’s certified,” he says, “soup to nuts.”
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Source: Fleets & Fuels workshop attendance and interview