Ford launching natural gas version of F-150 pickup
Source: Ford Motor Company
Ford is expanding its lineup of vehicles for buyers who want to run on clean natural gas to include its bestseller, the F-150 pickup.
The automaker says adding the 2014 F-150 will make it the only company with a full-size pickup that can come prepped from the factory for natural gas, then sent to an outfitter. Until now, Ford's natural-gas lineup has included the small Transit Connect and E Series vans, and the big Super Duty pickups and chassis cabs.
The lineup underscores how even though natural gas is a domestically produced fuel priced at a fraction of the cost of gasoline -- averaging $2.11 a gallon -- it's still largely commercial buyers and fleets embracing it. Only Honda produces a natural-gas car, a version of the Civic, in limited numbers.
The automaker is putting natural gas in its trucks, which Ford says cost the equivalent of $2.11 a gallon, well below current gasoline prices at the pump, reports the "Squawk on the Street" crew.(Read more: Ford hits the fast lane: Shares could race up 30%)
Ford officials note, however, that the F-150 with the modified 3.7-liter V-6 engine will be available in natural gas to anyone who wants to buy one. "This is not restricted to commercial fleets only," says Dick Cupka, a product development sustainability manager.
The natural-gas prep work to the engine at the factory adds $315 to the cost of the truck, which then goes to an outfitter who is likely to charge up to $9,500 more for the tanks and connections, Ford says. Many buyers opt to have the vehicle capable of running on either natural gas or gasoline.
Jon Coleman, a Ford fleet and sustainability manager, says the cost of conversion can pay for itself in fuel savings in two to three years. As a result, adding the F-150 is likely to boost fast-growing natural-gas vehicle sales.
They almost doubled every year for the past three years. Last year, they came in a little less than 12,000 vehicles. "When you see growth like that you realize this is an emerging technology in a mature industry," Coleman says.
—By Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY