Work Truck Show 2012 Raises a Chorus on Fuel Cost

The National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) Work Truck Show in Indianapolis, Ind., reads the pulse of the vocational truck market, and rising fuel prices placed the emphasis on alternate fuels and increased economy. The Big 3 auto makers introduced options for compressed natural gas (CNG) pickup trucks (GM and Chrysler in their 2500 ranges), which is proving to be a preview of natural gas options being introduced for heavy trucks at the Mid-America Truck Show. Here are some innovations introduced at The Work Truck Show:

GM unveils bi-fuel pickup

General Motors announced the addition of 2013 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 HD extended cab bi-fuel pickups. Consumers can place orders beginning in April. These vehicles will be powered by a CNG-capable Vortec 6.0-liter V8 engine, available in a long or short bed, two-wheel or four-wheel drive.

“CNG is unique in that it is not attached to the price of oil,” says Joyce Mattman, director, GM commercial product and specialty vehicles. “Over time, it has maintained a lower retail price than both gasoline and diesel fuel.” The average price tends to range from $2.15 to $2.25. “Some states are under $2.00. It really differs widely by state. Savings can range anywhere from $6,000 to $10,500 over a three-year period.”

Availability of CNG looks promising. “Right here in the U.S., we have about a 100-year supply,” says Mike Jones, CNG Product Manager, General Motors. And infrastructure continues to grow. “Since 2009, we have had a 26% increase in the number of CNG stations across the country. Some states have more developed infrastructure than others. The most developed states are California, New York, Utah and Oklahoma.”

The GM bi-fuel pickups run on gasoline and CNG. The composite Type 3 CNG tank holds 17 gallons. It is made of material with an aluminum liner and a carbon fiber wrap.

“The tank is not as large as some of the tanks used in the aftermarket," says Jones. "We did this because it provides the space we need with the bed of the vehicle to make sure there is enough clearance between the bed wall and the tank itself.”

Together with the 36-gallon gasoline tank, the pickups have a combined range of over 650 miles. 

“The truck will always start on gasoline and then switches over automatically (to CNG fuel) within a few minutes after the truck reaches the appropriate operating temperature,” explains Jones. “It will continue operating on CNG until the CNG tank is depleted, and then it will automatically transition over to gasoline. However, the driver can switch the vehicle from CNG to gasoline any time by using the switch on the dash.”

The bi-fuel commercial trucks will be covered by a three-year, 36,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty and a five-year, 100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty.

Ford Transit to feature 3.5-liter EcoBoost

The new full-size 2013 Transit van will be available with Ford's 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 gasoline engine. It promises at least 25% better fuel efficiency than the E-Series vans. Part of the fuel savings is due to the almost 300-lb. weight savings.

"The new Ford Transit commercial van will deliver all the capability and capacity that customers get with today's E-Series, but with the bonus of improved fuel economy and potentially lower operating costs thanks to its available EcoBoost engine," says Tim Stoehr, Ford commercial truck marketing manager. "This engine has revolutionized the half-ton pickup segment for F-150 and we're expecting it will have the same effect on commercial vans."

The rear-wheel drive Transit has been a commercial success in Europe for several years.

The EcoBoost engine is central to the Ford strategy of producing technologically advanced, high-output, smaller-displacement powertrains that deliver increased fuel economy. The company plans to produce up to 1.5 million EcoBoost engines globally in a wide variety of vehicles from small cars to trucks.

The Transit will eventually replace the E-Series. According to Rob Stevens, cheif namplate engineer.  

Westport bi-fuel system for Ford F-250/350

Westport Light Duty Inc. launched the Ford F-250/350 Super Duty Truck powered by the integrated CNG bi-fuel system called Westport WiNG Power System.

Westport-authorized Ford dealers will offer the Ford SD pickups with delivery beginning in the second quarter of 2012. The truck features a Ford 6.2-liter factory-ready gaseous engine with hardened valves and seats. The Ford warranty remains in tact and all service/warranty work will be performed at Ford dealer locations.

CNG is carried in a Type 4 composite fuel tank in the bed. The trucks will run 200 to 300 miles on CNG, stretching to more than 600 miles when combined with their range running on gasoline. Primary operation is on CNG, and the system automatically transitions to gasoline as needed. 

Ram Trucks offers factory CNG pickup

"Our commerical customers have been asking us to build a CNG (compressed natural gas) powered Ram," says Peter Grady, vice president, network development and fleet at the Chrysler Group LLC. "These fleets have already developed their own fleet fueling infrastructure for CNG, and are strong proponents of the technology."

At the NTEA Work Truck Show, the company responded by unveiling a 2500 HD Heavy Duty CNG pickup. It is powered by a 5.7-liter V8 and features both compressed gas storage tanks and an 8-gal. gasoline fuel tank (Canadian customers can opt for a 35-gal. tank).

The pickup's 4.6-cu.-ft. (130-liter) CNG tanks are located in the forward portion of the 8-ft. 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, accessed through the fuel filler door. Range on compressed natural gas alone is estimated to be 255 miles, while the backup supply of gasoline extends the range to 367 total miles.

The 5.7-liter HEMI bi-fuel engine has been modified to run on compressed natural gas as well as gasoline. Redesigned cylinder heads with specifically designed CNG compatible valves and valve-seat materials allow the engine to burn both fuels. It also gets a second, CNG-specific fuel rail and a set of injectors. New spark plugs improve combustion and durability, and a new powertrain control module allows the HEMI to seamlessly operate on either of the two fuel sources.

Fuel system operation is automatic. It transitions from CNG to gasoline with little discernible difference in operation or capability. Although a small amount of gasoline is used during engine startup, the pickup runs exclusively on compressed natural gas. If the CNG tanks are emptied, the vehicle will automatically switch to gasoline.

The Ram 2500 is delivered ready-to-tow and standard equipment includes the integrated 4- and 7-pin connectors along with a Class IV hitch receiver. The truck can carry 1,580 lbs. of payload and tow 7,650 lbs.

At the NTEA Work Truck Show, Chrysler's Ram Truck brand announced it would expand Ram 1500 Tradesman availability to include Crew Cab and Quad Cab models. It was previously only available in a regular cab. Tradesman is a value-priced package designed to meet the needs of small businessmen, construction jobsites and commercial fleets at an affordable price.

"From the moment we launched it, the Ram 1500 Tradesman was a hit," says Fred Diaz, President and CEO, Ram Truck Brand and Chrysler de Mexico. The new models add room for six adults.

The 4.7-liter V8 engine that powers the truck is rated at 310 hp and 330 lb.-ft. of torque. It also provides up to 20 mpg. An optional 5.7-liter Hemi V8 provides 390 hp and 407 lb.-ft. of torque.

Features include link-coil rear suspension, heavy-duty cooling, Class IV receiver hitch, 4- and 7-pin trailer connectors, in-floor storage on crew cab models, forward-opening doors on Quad Cab, power windows and a six-speaker stero with CD player and audio input jack. In addition, Ram Tradesman 4.7-liter models now come with a no-cost RamBox cargo management system that includes lighted, lockable storage for tools and adjustable tie-downs.