Fuel spend continues to be the top cost centers for today’s fleets. And, while gasoline and diesel both continue to be subject to the volatility and vagaries of commodities brokers and geopolitical jockeying, alternatives, particularly propane autogas and compressed natural gas (CNG), both remain relatively inexpensive and stable.

Indeed, over the last several years, both OEMs and upfitters have begun giving fleets the option of running their light- and medium-duty trucks on either propane autogas or CNG using dedicated or bi-fuel systems.

These alt-fuels have increasingly captured the imaginations of fleet managers, political leaders, and consumers alike. Mike Taylor of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) said propane autogas is the market’s “best kept secret,” and during his recent State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama called CNG, the country’s “bridge fuel.”

The following are a representative sampling of some of the OEMs and upfitters who are offering either (or both) propane autogas and CNG options to fleets.

Ford Offering Lower Cost of Ownership

The Ford Motor Company offers truck options with either compressed natural gas (CNG) or propane autogas prep-packages on its E-Series vans and F-Series and trucks. In addition, it also offers these prep kits on its E-350/450 Stripped Chassis and its F-59 Stripped Chassis.

Ford’s gaseous-prep package is available on five engine types and includes hardened components, such as valves and valve seats, to withstand the higher operating temperatures and lower lubricity of gaseous fuels.

Ford works with its network of Qualified Vehicle Modifiers (QVMs) for a smooth and seamless order-to-delivery process. Once a fleet orders a vehicle to be upfit to either propane autogas or CNG, the vehicle is delivered to the modifier, which will install the alternative-fuel components and system. The vehicle is then delivered to the fleet dealer, which turns it over to the fleet. Ford offers an engine and powertrain limited warranty (five years or 60,000 miles) and the modifier is responsible for the system component warranty.

Alt-Ram Option

Chrysler’s Ram 2500 HD bi-fuel CNG is available with a 5.7L HEMI V-8 bi-fuel engine and offers a choice of either an 8- or 32-gallon gasoline fuel tank. The pickup’s two ultra-strong 4.6 cu.-ft. compressed natural gas (CNG) tanks are located in the forward portion of the Ram’s 8-foot pickup bed. Both tanks are mounted 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 and is accessed through the Ram’s fuel filler door. Together, the tanks have a 18.2 gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE) capacity. The Ram’s CNG-only range is 255 miles highway. With its backup gasoline supply factored in, the total maximum range is about 703 miles.

According to Chrysler, the Ram 2500 HD CNG retains its heavy-duty capabilities. It offers 1,400 pounds of max payload and 7,650 pounds of towing capacity. The 2500 HD CNG has a five-year/
100,000-mile powertrain warranty and a three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper limited warranty.

Clean Running Silverado

Chevrolet has expanded it’s bi-fuel lineup with the new MY-2015 Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD being available with a 6.0L engine with specially hardened valves and vale seats that enable it to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) or gasoline. The engine is rated at 360 hp and 380 lb.-ft. of torque when operated using gasoline or 301 hp and 333 lb.-ft. torque using CNG. Drivers can toggle from using gasoline to CNG with a flip of a switch.

The Silverado HD bi-fuel models have a total range of up to 650 miles and a maximum conventional trailering rating of 13,000 pounds using either gasoline or CNG. The Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD models come in Work Truck (WT), LT, and LTZ trims, and are offered in Regular Cab, Double Cab, and Crew Cab configurations. The Regular Cab comes only in WT and LT trims. The new Double Cab model replaces the previous Extended Cab, and features forward-hinged rear doors, which allow easier access to the back seat, especially in tight parking spaces, according to the automaker.

The 2015 Silverado HD bi-fuel trucks are covered by GM’s five-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty, which also covers the CNG fuel systems.

Cab-Forward Standing Out

The NPR-HD from Isuzu Commercial Truck of America is a low-cab forward (LCF) gaseous powered vehicle. The truck can be powered either by CNG or propane autogas.

The Isuzu NPR-HD is available with a three-person standard cab or a seven-passenger crew cab. The truck has a GVW of 14,500 pounds and a body payload allowance. The wheelbase offers options of is 109-176 inches. Its 6.0L Vortex V-8 gasoline engine is rated at 297-hp and 372 lb.-ft. of torque. It is equipped with a 6L90 Hydra-Matic 6-speed automatic with double overdrive. The Isuzu N-Series’ Vortec gasoline engine is available with a CNG/propane autogas alternative fuel capable option.

The truckmaker has partnered with three alternative-fuel companies with a ship-thru program from the Spartan assembly plant in Charlotte, Mich. Impco Automotive offers a dedicated CNG system and bi-fuel CNG or gasoline system. LandiRenzo offers a CNG system and Bi-Phase offers a propane autogas system both upfit by Utilimaster.

Helping to Make the Switch

Founded by Blossman Gas, Alliance AutoGas, which is comprised of more than 90 companies nationwide, provides everything a fleet needs to switch from gasoline to propane autogas. The company’s certified technicians can either upgrade a gasoline vehicle without voiding the warranty or modify a vehicle with a gaseous prep package straight from the factory. In addition, the company can provide the fleet a fueling station at the fleet’s base of operations. Alliance AutoGas also provides technical and safety training. 

The company’s bi-fuel PRINS system starts on gasoline and immediately switches to propane autogas. Drivers can switch back to gasoline whenever they wish. The kit and tank installation costs approximately $5,600. Alliance AutoGas can offer conversions for a variety Ford and GM pickup and van models. Alliance AutoGas’ clients range from light- to medium-duty high-mileage fleets.
Alliance AutoGas provides aftermarket conversion to biofuel; provides installation by authorized conversion centers; refueling Infrastructure and data integration; guarantees fuel supply; offer a competitive financing programs that enable fleet vehicle conversion at no upfront cost, green branding and green branding message support.

Meeting Fleet Needs

CleanFUEL USA offers a Liquid Propane Injection (LPI) system for the propane-autogas option available on the GM 6.0L G4500 Cut-Van Chassis and the Freightliner 8.0L S2G Chassis. The company recently added a third vehicle option, the Freightliner 6.0L MT 45/55 chassis.

The GM Cutaway Van Chassis can be ordered at any dealership (the purchaser must choose the LC8 hardened engine and can choose either the three- or four-tank option).

The system is backed by GM’s five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. The Freightliner 8.0L S2G chassis incorporates a dedicated propane autogas engine built on the S2 chassis platform. It has a 33,000-pound GVWR and comes equipped with an Allison 2300 automatic transmission with PTO provision. According to the company, the propane autogas version of the Freightliner MT45/55 has approximately the same capabilities as the gasoline version.

Having a Dedicated or Bi-Fuel Choice

Icom North America is the manufacturer of the patented Icom JTG II Liquid Injection Propane vehicle system and additional Liquid Injection Propane vehicle systems including direct injection and dual fuel diesel technologies.

The company’s Liquid Injection Propane systems feature fully integrated conformable tanks with easy access fuel pump and are EPA Certified, NFPA58 compliant, Canadian IGAC certified and meet FMVSS requirements. The patented Liquid Injection systems are available in dedicated monofuel or bi-fuel applications and are rated for numerous OEM and aftermarket applications including most Ford E- and F-series platforms, Ford Transit, GMC Sierra, and Chevrolet Tahoe and Silverado models. In the industry’s list of EPA-certified platforms, Icom Systems are recognized for their excellent performance, seamless drivability, and reliability consistent with the millions of miles driven on U.S. roads, according to the company.

The systems are available through a national dealer network of 80 wholesalers and installers trained to provide exceptional quality service and installation.

Offering Ford Power and Capability

ROUSH CleanTech offers a full line of Ford commercial vehicles fueled by propane autogas. As a Ford Tier 1 supplier and powertrain engineering company, the company complies with the standards set forth by Ford’s qualified vehicle modifier (QVM) guidelines, meaning that all ROUSH CleanTech propane-autogas powered vehicles maintain the same horsepower, torque, and towing capacity of similar gasoline platforms. Ford’s factory warranty also remains intact.

All ROUSH CleanTech vehicles meet stringent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California Air Resources Board (CARB) certification levels, as well as FMVSS, NHTSA and NFPA-58 requirements. ROUSH CleanTech currently offers 12 Ford propane autogas fueled products, including: F-250/F-350, E-150/E-250/E-350, E-450 Cutaways and Stripped Chassis, F-59 Stripped Chassis, F-53 Stripped Chassis, F-450/F-550 Chassis Cabs, and F-650 Chassis Cab trucks. For 2014, the company plans to launch propane autogas Ford Transit vans and wagons.

Offering Dedicated and Bi-Fuel CNG Systems

Venchurs, a Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier (QVM), offers both dedicated and bi-fuel compressed natural gas (CNG) systems for a number of Ford products, including the 3.7L F-150, 6.2L F-250/F-350, and the 2.0L and 2.5L Transit Connect. All of the systems utilize a Type IV 3M tank. Tanks must be inspected every three years/36,000 miles and can be re-used as long as they have not exceeded their usable life (depending on manufacturer this is typically 20 years). The bi-fuel systems have on-the-fly switching from CNG to gasoline and vice versa.

All CNG conversion must be ordered with the gaseous prep package from Ford. The Ford warranty is maintained and the conversion can be financed through Ford Credit. Orders can be placed either through a Ford dealer or a Fleet Management Company (FMC). In addition to the CNG system, Venchurs Vehicle Systems can install any additional accessories that the customer requires. Examples include brush guards, bumpers, wheels, tires, decals, and interior equipment. This allows customers to reduce their logistics costs and time from order to delivery.

A CNG Solution Designed for Fleets

Westport offers its Westport WiNG Power system for fleets and individuals. The system allows vehicles to operate either using compressed natural gas (CNG) or gasoline. Westport is a Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier (QVM) that meets or exceeds the OEM standards, according to the company. The Westport WiNG Power System is designed, built, installed, and delivered key-READY and built-to-SPEC to customer fleets. The bi-fuel system is available for F-250/F-350 pickups and service bodies and F-350 Chassis Cab models.

Westport’s acquisition of BAF in 2013 allows it to also offer dedicated CNG systems as a QVM for the following Ford products: F-150 pickup truck, F-250/F-350 pickup trucks, F-350/F-450/F-550/F-650 Chassis Cab models, E-250/E-350 Van-Wagon models, E-350/E-450 Cutaway, and F-59 Strip Chassis. All Westport WiNG-equipped Ford products are designed to meet EPA or CARB certifications.