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GM introduces CNG bi-fuel Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups

5 March 2012

2013Bi-FuelChevroletSilverado01
Bi-fuel Chevrolet Silverado. Click to enlarge.

General Motors is introducing compressed natural gas (CNG) bi-fuel versions of the 2013 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 HD extended cab pickup trucks. Fleet and retail consumers can place orders beginning this April.

The vehicles feature a CNG-capable Vortec 6.0L V8 engine that seamlessly transitions between CNG and gasoline fuel systems. With both CNG and gasoline tanks full, the trucks offer a range of more than 650 miles. The Silverado and Sierra will be available in standard and long box, with either two- or four-wheel drive.

The Vortec engine features hardened exhaust valves and hardened intake and exhaust valve seats. Bosch supplies the fuel injection system. The trucks use a 17-gallon Type 3 CNG tank made from composite material with aluminum liner and carbon fiber wrap. GM placed a collar around the head of the tank for further safety.

2013Bi-FuelChevroletSilverado06
Fuel tank and fuel door. Click to enlarge.

GM mounts the tank through the bed of the truck to the frame; the fuel door is high up and out of the impact area. All of the high pressure fuel lines run inside of the frame rails.

The trucks always start on gasoline, then switch over automatically to CNG after a few minutes once the appropriate temperature is reached. The trucks continue operating on CNG until the CNG tank is depleted, and then it automatically switches back to gasoline. The driver can switch from CNG to gasoline using a switch on the dashboard. An LED system on the switch monitors the fuel in the CNG tank.

Horsepower and torque are identical to the base truck when running on gasoline. On CNG there is “minimal” loss of horsepower and torque, according to GM. The bo-fuel truck offers comparable towing capability. The CNG system adds 450 lb. to the total weight of the truck.

GM is the only manufacturer to offer a single-source option for its gaseous fuel vehicles. The bi-fuel trucks are built with a specially designed engine, the fuel system is installed by GM’s Tier One supplier (IMPCO) and the completed vehicle is delivered directly to the customer. This process makes ordering the bi-fuel option as seamless and efficient as a standard vehicle.

The bi-fuel commercial trucks will be covered by GM’s three-year, 36,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty and five-year, 100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty and vehicle emissions warranty, meeting all Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California Air Resources Board (CARB) emission certification requirements.

March 5, 2012 in Natural Gas | Permalink | Comments (41) | TrackBack (0)

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What's the price?
GM normally price so high that if you ran the vehicle until AD2100 you would still not recover the savings.
Fiat in Europe do bi-fuel vehicles at only a small premium to conventional.
The US car manufacturers, the Volt excepted, seem to regard their job as to delay and obstuct any move away from petrol by any means possible.

The price markup will probably be 15k USD because it is a factory retrofit. What is needed is a dedicated factory solution where the chassis is designed for CNG so that the price markup gets down to 6k USD for this size of vehicle.

VW’s new chassis developed for their Up! minicar is designed with a bay under the floor that can accommodate a variety of energy source from gasoline only, to bi-fuel gas and CNG and to battery only. It is going to be interesting to see the price markup for the Up! bi-fuel. I expect no more than 3k USD.

In the future I think most cars will be build on a chassis with a large bay under the floor that can accommodate various fuel sources and therefore also diverse powertrains. For instance, imagine a future Prius C with such a chassis. You could buy it as a gas only version for about 16k USD getting about 30 mpg. Alternatively, order it as a bi-fuel gas and CNG for 19k USD where it still gets 30 mpg but using natural gas that costs about 40% less than gasoline. Alternatively, order it as a hybrid gasoline that gets 50 mpg and that also costs 19k USD. Alternatively order it as a hybrid bi-fuel gas and CNG that gets 50 mpg but that now costs about 22k USD. Alternatively, order it as a plug-in gasoline with 12 miles battery power with 50 mpg when operated in gasoline mode. I expect it to cost 24k USD (19+5 for a 5kwh battery pack). Alternatively order it as a battery only car with a 24 kwh fast charge battery and 80 miles range and I would expect it to cost about 32 USD at today’s battery prices and about 28k USD by 2017. Alternatively, order it as a long range 160 miles battery only with 48kwh for about 40 k USD in 2017 (16 + 24 k USD for the 48 kwh battery).

I believe such a chassis with a large floor based bay is the DNA of the automobile of the future. VW has discovered it and are rolling it out on all of its coming platforms.

Excellent discussion of the potential costs for the different versions Henrik! Still, this is such a no-brainer --- I'm surprised it took them this long to do it. But, undoubtedly, the MSRP for this will have a $15k-20k premium for something that in reality costs maybe $5k for parts & installation....typical GM excessive markup.

"The US car manufacturers, the Volt excepted, seem to regard their job as to delay and obstuct any move away from petrol by any means possible."

Even the Volt, paid for by tax bailout and subsidy, is being marketed by GM like the EV1 - priced too high and then stopping production, the coming five weeks initially.

Now GM can again say, "See how we really tried with those EVs. Guess we'll have to open 100 acre ICE auto plants in Russia and China. Thanks for those ~$100 billion(s?) in taxpayer bailouts and debt write-offs."

Is too big to fail too corrupt to catch?

typical GM excessive markup.
Leaving openings for Ford, Chrysler, Toyota and Nissan.  Which one will jump first?

Chrysler have the technology ready to go from Fiat, the biggest producer of CNG and bi-fuel vehicles in the world.
They do it at around a $3k premium, as Henrik said.

Considering the big 3 I also think that Chrysler is the most likely candidate to jump the CNG fuel option because of Fiat’s ownership and expertise. However, I am still nearly sure VW will be first to offer a serious and affordable priced car on the US market with bi-fuel gas and CNG. It will be the Golf 2014 US model.

See http://www.greencarcongress.com/2012/02/mqb-20120201.html

It may even come as a tri-fuel version that can run on gasoline, E85 or CNG. It will also come in a battery electric only version in order to compete directly with the Leaf.

@Davemart
The 3k USD CNG price premium is for a small car. It will be larger for larger cars that needs larger or more gas tanks. The combination of CNG and hybrid is attractive in a funny way because the hybrid’s high fuel efficiency can be used to reduce the costs of the CNG option as you do not need as many CNG tanks to achieve the desired CNG range. I didn’t account for that in the above but it may actually reduce the price of the hybrid bi-fuel car to 21k USD in that “Prius C” case.

Chris m from autobloggreen said that's it's stupid to have 2 tanks because it take too much space.

Henrik:
Since you are talking about pressure tanks you are going to have to increase the volume by a heck of a lot to much increase the material costs and so on.
Perhaps another $1k ought to cover it.

I am not sure what the cost increase will be but one of my complaints would be that the CNG tank takes up bed space. I have a long bed extended cab Silverado and often need the full length of the bed to haul steel sections and steel weldments. I also have a full length camper that I use to go hunting and camping.

It is good to see this from a major truck maker, maybe Dodge Ram trucks will be next, who knows?

I'm sorry but I don't see anything new here. I remember driving a bi-fuel CNG/gasoline truck in the 80s.

Al:
What is new is the price of petrol now.

It is not new, but it is from a major truck maker under warranty and ready to go. Businesses and individuals can make the decision according to their needs.

When new trucks from the factory are available at dealers, instead of conversions, more people may be willing to consider the option. Once they look at the savings in fuel costs, it could be a real easy decision, then we all benefit.

Well yeah, the "price" is higher now but price is relative. What's important is what you're paying as a percentage of what you're earning. The company I worked for back then had switched to bi-fuel in responce to the Arab oil embargos of the 70s. Do you remember that? The price of gasoline doubling overnight, line-ups at the gas station a mile long, the stations' underground tanks going dry, etc?

Not everyone is old enough to remember the 1970s oil embargoes, they did not last long but had quiet an effect on people'e outlooks. We might see a similar situation soon, I hope not but it could be.

When the oil price is inflation adjusted the oil price during the peak of the 80’ties oil crisis hit about 160 USD per barrel in terms of the value of a 2012 USD and one should remember that oil was used for everything: heating, electricity generation and transport. Today oil is nearly only used for transport with a few people still using it for heating (less than 10% of the households). The new thing is that oil at 110 USD per barrel containing 5.6 million BTU is priced at 19.6 USD per million BTU. Natural gas is trading for 2.4 USD per million BTU in the USA. The fact, that oil now cost 8 times (19.6/2.4) as much as natural gas in terms of their energy equivalents is quite new and unprecedented.

This unique situation literally screams at political and industrial action ensuring that natural gas is distributed and sold everywhere as either CNG for small vehicles and as LNG for large commercial vehicles. And the industry must follow it up and deliver the vehicles that can run on both gas and oil.

Henrik,

Thank you for the information. I would like to see trucks running on CNG/LNG, but there is a static inertia holding the situation in place.

This is why I say take natural gas and make synthetic gasoline to mix with our present refined stock. Make the energy future more stable and buy time for further improvements.

Compact GTL and other companies have made it easy and affordable to begin the process without a lot of delay. We could sit around and argue ego points until the collapse or actually get something done.

Chrysler Group LLC plans to disclose it will build the first production-line pickup truck powered by natural gas. The auto maker is promising to build at least 2,000 heavy-duty Ram bi-fuel trucks that run on a combination of compressed natural gas and gasoline starting in June.

http://www.pickensplan.com/news/2012/03/05/chrsyler-and-gm-announce-natural-gas-powered-pickups/

When new trucks from the factory are available at dealers, instead of conversions, more people may be willing to consider the option.

I should point out that the company I worked for did order the bi-fuels from the factory: They came in both trucks for us guys and sedans for the white shirts. Fleet operators have always had the option to order from the factory.

This is what I mean by static inertia keeping the situation in place. Natural gas powered vehicles have been available for a long time but we have very few on the roads.

We can project how many will be on the roads in the next ten years, even with GM and Dodge promoting them. Probably about as many vehicles as EVs, but certainly not enough to reduce OPEC oil imports much.

@SJC
I know you favor the GTL/synthetic fuel solution. Below is six arguments of why I prefer to use natural gas directly despite it will take some time (up to 10 years) to build the fueling infrastructure and roll out dedicated OEM manufactured bi-fuel vehicles.

1) Using natural gas directly is much cheaper than using liquid fuels made from natural gas.
2) Converting natural gas to liquids is wasteful. Most of the energy is lost in the process emitting large amounts of CO2.
3) Converting natural gas to liquids is also capital intensive. You need to build multibillion USD refineries to do it. In order to scale it to several millions of barrels per day you need to invest hundreds of billions of USD.
4) Burning liquid fuels, such as, gasoline and diesel is far more (many times more) polluting in terms of sot, particle matter and SOX than burning natural gas.
5) Burning liquid fuels, such as, gasoline and diesel is about 25% more polluting than burning natural gas in terms of CO2 pollution (on top you also need to add the CO2 emitted when producing the synthetic fuel).
6) The NOX emissions are also less in natural gas engines but emissions of residual natural gas is admittedly higher when burning natural gas in a combustion engine rather than liquid fuels.

We have had almost 40 years since the 1973 oil embargo to convert vehicles to NG, not many converted.

We have more than 200 million vehicles on the road that use gasoline and will probably still have more than 200 million vehicles on the road in 10 years using gasoline.

You have to examine the path of least resistance to find the most probably outcome. Are we more likely to convert millions of vehicles to NG or are we more likely to sell gasoline, whether refined or synthesized?

SJC
I don’t believe in converting old gasoline vehicles either. Much too expensive and impractical and it also introduces safety issues and broken warranties. Nor do I believe in the factory retrofits like GM’s Silverado that appears to occupy one third of the trunk space. I believe in designing vehicles from ground up to have natural gas tanks under the floor so that all trunk space is preserved and it can be done at low costs. Fiat is doing it in Europe right now. The US does not have a single dedicated natural gas vehicle for sale. The Honda Civic natural gas does not count as it is also just an expensive factory retrofit with limited utility and not a dedicated bi-fuel vehicle. The VW Golf 2014 I think will be the first dedicated bi-fuel vehicle in the US with full utility. I think it will be an instant hit among fleet owners and then it will start from there with more vehicles being offered and more natural gas stations going on-line.

As you rightly point out nothing has happened in the past 40 years in terms of going off oil in transportation. I think this is because oil has been dirt cheap for most of the time apart from the time of the 80’ties oil crisis and the past 5 years. This time oil is more likely to stay highly priced and we as a society are more concerned about air pollution than ever so I think this time natural gas and battery electric transportation will grow big. It could take 10 years with the help of politicians and it can take 20 years if the market is left to do it by itselves. This is what I believe right now.

First, I would encourage everyone to read some of the work Arthur Berman has done analyzing shale gas resources: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8212

Summary: there isn't as much gas out there as everyone thinks

Second, I would encourage everyone to note the USGS's 80% downgrade of the Marcellus Shale: http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=2893

Third, there are more efficient ways to use NG with existing infrastructure. Take a look at Advanced Refining Concepts: http://www.advancedrefiningconcepts.com/
IIRC, they were featured here on GCC a few years back. Consider that a refinery sufficient to serve ~1,000,000 vehicles might cost ~$1billion, that's $1k/vehicle. Probably lower than the cost to add CNG equipment to a vehicle at the factory and certainly lower than the cost to retrofit existing vehicles. Let's not forget that building CNG "gas stations" isn't exactly cheap.

Finally, I'd encourage people to simply "do the math" when it comes to natural gas supply and petroleum demand. If the U.S. were to divert ALL of it's natural gas production to fueling vehicles, it would barely be sufficient to replace our oil imports.
U.S. nat gas consumption: 23TCF/year
~5.8mcf/barrel of oil
23TCF/year = 3.96Billion barrels of oil/year
U.S. annual oil imports: ~3.36billion barrels of oil/year

Keep in mind that the U.S. is slated to add ~3.5-4TCF of natural gas demand in the next year from electrical generation alone. If we were to add ~5TCF of vehicle demand on top of that (assuming we COULD produce ~30TCF which I doubt) we'd be out in ~30years.

IMO, we're better off using NG blended with existing diesel fuel (ala ARC) and using it to replace coal fired generation in the short to medium term and focusing on BEVs and PHEVs.

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