Natural Gas – Conversions, Vehicles and Technology

Chrysler & GM Enter the CNG Truck Market

May 2012, Green Fleet Magazine - Cover Story

by Chris Wolski

There are new options for truck fleets looking to go green: Chrysler and GM have introduced three compressed natural gas (CNG) models that will arrive at fleet garages ready to use, eliminating the time and expense of taking delivery and sending the vehicle to an aftermarket upfitter.

In addition to the convenience of having a CNG system installed prior to delivery, fleets will also get the added benefit of having the truck’s fuel system covered under the same warranty as the rest of the vehicle.

The introduction of these new products is the result of market demand, an example of how the desire to have alternative-fuel vehicles as part of fleets is becoming a growing need for the industry.

CNG Tough
The Ram 2500 Heavy Duty (HD) CNG pickup from Chrysler is designed specifically for fleet and commercial customers.

According to Bob Hegbloom, director of Ram Truck, the inspiration for the vehicle came from meetings the company had with natural gas suppliers beginning in 2009. “The natural gas consortiums were looking for a vehicle that was designed, tested, and integrated by the OEM,” he said.

The CNG-only range of the Ram 2500 CNG pickup is 255 miles.
The gasoline backup extends the range to
367 miles.
The CNG-only range of the Ram 2500 CNG pickup is 255 miles.The gasoline backup extends the range to367 miles.

The result was the Ram 2500 HD CNG, which is powered by a 5.7L HEMI V-8. The engine has been modified to run on CNG as well as gasoline. Redesigned cylinder heads with specifically designed CNG-compatible valves and valve-seat materials allow the engine to burn both fuels. The engine also has a second, CNG-specific fuel rail and set of injectors. The specially designed spark plugs help improve combustion and durability, and a new powertrain control module allows the HEMI to seamlessly operate on either of the two fuel sources.

Hegbloom said that the development of the CNG pickup came at a fortuitous time. “It gave us the opportunity to use our partnership with Fiat,” he said.

According to the company, Fiat, which is part of the Chrysler Group, is the dominant CNG manufacturer in Europe with a more than 80-percent share of the market. Ram used Fiat’s expertise and European experience to assist in the development of the U.S. pickup.

The Ram 2500 HD’s CNG is stored in two 18.2 gasoline-gallon-equivalent (GGE) tanks in the bed of the pickup. According to Hegbloom, the tanks are bolted to the 2500 HD’s frame and surrounded by a high-strength steel case for added protection and safety. The tanks measure approximately four feet by four feet, leaving four feet of usable storage space. In addition, there is an eight-gallon gasoline tank. The capless CNG filler is located next to the gasoline fuel neck and is accessed through the Ram’s fuel-filler door

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