In the big picture though more signs that natural gas may be the fuel of choice with our abundant supply. The Wall Street Journal reports "Ford will begin selling an F-150 pickup truck later this year that is modified to run on compressed natural gas, as demand continues to grow among commercial fleet buyers. Ford sold 11,000 trucks last year that run on natural gas, and that was double what the company sold in the years of 2009, 2010 and 2011 combined. Until now, Ford hadn't made it an option available on the base F-150, reserving it for heavier-duty models and its Transit Connect delivery van. With the addition of the F-150, Ford expects to sell about 15,000 CNG vehicles this year, the company said in a statement. We did this because customers were asking for it," said Kevin Koswick, Ford's director of North American fleet sales operations.
Chrysler Group LLC and General Motors Co. GM already offer compressed natural gas as an option on its half-ton pickup trucks and Ford offers it on its larger, heavy-duty pickups and vans. Of the Detroit companies, only Chrysler is installing the special tanks and fuel lines in the trucks at its own factory. Ford and GM send the trucks to an up-fitter that installs the equipment. Neither GM nor Chrysler would disclose how many CNG vehicles they have sold this year. The Natural Gas Vehicles for America—a trade group—estimates that there are about 130,000 natural gas vehicles on U.S. roads, primarily in commercial trucks and buses.
Companies, including Pioneer Energy Services and AT&T Inc., have been among Ford's biggest clients for the compressed natural gas. The extra cost to build the trucks can quickly be covered because the companies use so much fuel at a higher cost and refueling isn't difficult because they can install their own natural gas pumps. "The market for these vehicles really started in 2009 when the invention of horizontal drilling and fracking," said Robert Stevens, chief engineer for commercial trucks. "That's when the cost of natural gas and gasoline diverged for the first time." Natural gas costs range widely from less than $1 to nearly $3 per gasoline-gallon equivalent. Natural gas fueled vehicles, much like battery-powered electric cars, are slowly but steadily providing a legitimate alternative to gasoline and diesel, but they make up a very small portion of the market. Natural gas makes the most financial sense on large vehicles where the size of the tank can be accommodated more easily without changing the vehicle's utility.
The advantages of natural gas include its cost, and plentiful availability of underground lines around the country to supply the fuel. It is energy dense and can work in gasoline engines with alterations that only cost a few hundred dollars. But like electric vehicles, there are big drawbacks, namely the upfront cost, paucity of refueling stations and the size of the fuel tank. On Ford's trucks, buyers pay about $315 for the engine modifications and then another $8,000 to $16,000 to have a fuel tank and lines installed. For an F-150, the cost is expected to be $7,500 to $9,000 to modify the truck. And unlike electric cars, there are is no federal tax credit available to defray the costs." Of course as time goes on and Nat gas supply is abundant those costs will come down.