Ford is halting production of its natural gas and compressed gas vehicles in North America “to concentrate on fuel-efficient gas-electric vehicles.”
Production of cars using alternative fuels will end with 2004 models “due to limited market demand,” the automaker said in a report. Ford sold about 2,100 cars powered with natural gas for the current model year, down from about 6,000 four years ago, spokeswoman Kristen Kinley said. Atlanta Journal Constitution.
GM is also halting production of compressed natural gas (CNG) full-size vans at the conclusion of the 2004-model year.
The cut includes both bi-fuel (KL6) and dedicated (KL8) CNG Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans. According to [a company] memo, GM has experienced a continued decline in market demand for CNG capable vehicles over the past few years. CALSTART.
These moves come when energy diversity, emissions and the cost of fuel are increasingly pressing issues, and when support for natural gas vehicles is increasing in international markets. Compare Toyota’s recent statement about natural gas hybrids, for example. Ford may point to its intention to concentrate on hybrids, but that intention doesn’t give buyers, particularly fleet buyers, actual alternatives to buy in the short- to medium-term.
That said, it is hard to argue to keep a product line going in the face of plummeting sales numbers. But why are they dropping? What kind of campaigns have GM and Ford run? Natural Gas and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) vehicles have a small presence in the US (around 130,000 vehicles, according to the Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition) but some 2 million elsewhere. LNG is an interesting emerging possibility, as is some initial exploratory work on hydrogen and natural gas blends (HCNG) as a step to hydrogen power.
For an overview on Natural Gas Vehicles, including links to work on HCNG, see the DOE Alternative Fuel Data Center here.