Story and photos by Dan Sanchez
Several years ago, diesel truck enthusiasts began adding compressed-natural-gas tanks as a way to boost fuel economy and performance. Plenty of conversion kits were available and the results were good, but early conversions required stopping the vehicle to switch from one tank to the other. Furthermore, the CNG fuel valves required careful maintenance, and you had to remove the CNG tank from the vehicle for refilling.
Now that gasoline prices are high again, many companies that use light-duty diesel trucks in their fleets are considering this type of conversion for both gas and diesel. And as before, the popularity is growing. Companies that have approval from Ford to make conversions and modifications for fleets (known as Qualified Vehicle Modifiers) have invested lots of time and resources to make CNG conversions easier to install, providing seamless and easy operation for all types of operators.
One of the most recent examples is the Venchurs 2012 Ford F-250, whose bi-fuel CNG conversion with the 6.2L gas V-8 gives the truck a range of 650 miles.
It takes only a few moments behind the wheel of the Venchurs F-250 to realize why new CNG conversions like these are becoming more popular. Driving the truck feels and rides just like any other F-250. We were also impressed that switching from one fuel supply to the other can done on the fly and is practically invisible. A simple dash-mounted switch controls the system, and there’s no hesitation, vibration or even a difference in engine noise when the switch is made. In fact, we joked about how the toggle switch might be fake; we looked to see if any wires were actually connected to it. If it weren’t for the CNG pressure gauge mounted to the truck’s interior window pillar, you couldn’t tell that the system was working. Venchurs CEO Jeff Wyatt said engineers spent many hours perfecting the truck’s programming to make it that way.
The F-250 was also outfitted with a two-inch Superlift suspension that included new coil springs and a rear leaf block. A set of Bilstein shocks and 35-inch-diameter BFGoodrich tires make the Venchurs F-250 very capable off-road and perfect for a park ranger or construction worker who has to cover difficult terrain to reach the job site.
While the truck didn’t seem to lack any power, the conversion maintained most of the truck’s overall towing capabilities. But with the extended fuel range, it’s a small trade-off.
The Venchurs F-250 was also upgraded with an Asfir skid plate and Fab Fours heavy-duty bumpers. The front features a large grille with IPF driving lights and a Warn winch rated at 16,000 pounds. A set of retractable steps from AMP Research makes entering and exiting the cab easier.
Companies with fleet vehicles are looking for ways to cut costs, and the Venchurs Ford F-250 demonstrates that this technology is ready and easy to integrate. “We’ve been working hard on making CNG conversions as seamless as possible,” Wyatt said. “Our 2012 F-250 showcases an extreme example of how seamless our conversions are, while demonstrating the performance potential in a rugged and capable off-road truck. We even placed the CNG refill nozzle next to the fuel filler cap so that the truck doesn’t operate or feel any different for the driver. ”
If more CNG refueling stations are added, trucks like this one may be in our immediate future.
The Venchurs 2012 Ford F-250 pickup uses the company’s 6.2-liter bi-fuel CNG conversion that gives the vehicle a range of 650 miles. The factory gas engine doesn’t appear any different on the surface. The CNG conversion works under the Ford warranty, and companies like Venchurs also offer turn-key vehicles and services fleets.
The truck is outfitted with a Fab Fours front bumper with IPF driving lights and a Warn winch.
The CNG tank refueling nozzle is next to the fuel filler.
The rear bumper is a heavy-duty Fab Fours unit with D-ring mounts and a step. he Venchurs F-250 also has a Superlift suspension lift, a set of Bilstein shocks and 35-inch diameter BFGoodrich 325/60R20 Mud-Terrain T/A KM2 tires.