By Aaron Bragman
Ford announced that two government agencies have placed orders for 321 Ford F-150s powered by compressed natural gas. Oklahoma will get 256 of the bi-fuel pickup trucks, while Dallas will take possession of 65 trucks. The F-150 will come equipped with the 3.7-liter V-6 engine, capable of running on either CNG or liquefied petroleum gas, also known as propane autogas. Ford says that the most commonly selected option puts two fuel tanks in the truck, one for gasoline and one for CNG, enabling the truck to travel nearly 750 miles when both tanks are used sequentially.
Fleets like the ones in Oklahoma and Dallas are increasingly using CNG vehicles because CNG prices are nearly one-third that of gasoline. Those savings allow the increased purchase cost of the truck to be recouped in less than three years, according to Ford. After that, the reduction in annual fuel costs means lower operating budgets, a good thing for municipalities. The increased production of CNG and LPG in the U.S. also means that the fuel continues to get cheaper and more available; a large fleet can even have its own filling stations. Oklahoma is leading the way in pushing for conversion of municipal fleets to CNG — Gov. Mary Fallin leads a coalition of 22 states that are committing to switching fuels for state-owned vehicle fleets as a way to reduce dependency on foreign oil and save money in the process.
By this summer Ford will offer eight vehicles that can be powered by CNG, and says that it is on track to sell 15,000 CNG trucks by the end of the year with a cumulative total of 50,000 such vehicles since 2010.