General Motors announced this week that it completed the production process for its Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) powered versions of the 2011 Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana full-size vans for fleet and commercial customers that will arrive later this year. Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) powered versions of the vans will follow.
The decision to offer these two alternative fuel vehicles was made in response to the industry commitment to expand the CNG and LPG infrastructure in key fleet markets said Brian Small, general manager of GM’s fleet and commercial operations.
Fleet operators have long recognized the benefits of CNG over gasoline: with a similar equivalent fuel mileage there’s a significant cost savings at the pump—CNG costs less than $2.00 per gallon (equivalent) in many parts of the U.S.—and for the environment there are fewer emissions out the tailpipe. The roadblock has been the poor availability of refueling locations. Now, with an expanding infrastructure, fleets see not only the opportunity for cost savings but to go green.
By offering the CNG alternative fuel as a factory option, GM will be the only manufacturer to offer a one-source CNG van, allowing customers to focus on their business rather than on contracting the conversion of their vehicles.
The CNG vans will use GM’s Vortec 6.0-liter V-8 engine, modified with hardened exhaust valves, and intake and exhaust valve seats for improved wear resistance and durability with gaseous fuel systems. These hardened engines will be assembled into the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans at GM’s Wentzville, Mo. plant.
In addition, GM has chosen Productive Concepts (PCI), an alternative fuels conversion company, to become an integral part of its production. PCI will integrate the CNG fuel delivery and storage system with the hardened engine at its facility in Union City, Ind.
Once the CNG system is integrated into the vans at PCI, they can be shipped to many specialty vehicle manufacturers to have commercial equipment added, or directly to Chevrolet and GMC dealers.
Green as in Dollars, As Well as Eco
The vans will meet all Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California Air Resources Board (CARB) emission certification requirements, and will be fully compliant with applicable motor vehicle safety standards.
Each CNG Chevrolet Express or GMC Savana van also will be covered by GM’s three-year, 36,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty and five-year, 100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty.
Pricing has not been announced but expect the option to cost in the $7,500 to $8,000 range. Compared to the only other green light commercial vehicle coming to market, Ford’s Transit Connect Electric, that’s a bargain. Plus, to fill a fuel tank with CNG only takes a few minutes, not a few hours that it will take to juice up the Connect’s battery pack.