GM Puts Faith in CNG Vans

Jun 17, 2010

Via The New York Times:

Automakers have had a mixed history with natural gas in the United States, but General Motors Co. is betting that a new line of fleet vans can bring the technology back.

The automaker is rolling out compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) alternatives to the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana. The two full-sized vans are designed for those who must haul large amounts of equipment but don’t need to drive long distances.

The new vans will be available for the 2011 model year. Pricing hasn’t yet been released.

“We’re listening to our fleet customers and dealers about offering options that help them achieve their business objectives,” said Brian Small, general manager of GM’s fleet and commercial operations, in a release. “The industry commitment to expand the CNG and LPG infrastructure in key fleet markets was an enabler to allowing us to introduce these options now.”

Details about emissions and range aren’t available yet, but the vans will meet U.S. EPA’s and the California Air Resource Board’s certification requirements, said Mike McGarry, the marketing manager for alternative fuels in fleet and commercial operations.

Fleet vans are a good opportunity for automakers to try new technology, said Kim Hill, director of the Sustainable Transportation and Communities group for the nonprofit Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. Most of the vehicles don’t need to be able to travel long distances, and buyers purchase between 100 and 1,000 vehicles at a time.

“It’s much easier and advantageous for a company to get vehicles out there at once through the fleets rather than through the consumer,” Hill said. “The Savana van is ubiquitous as a service vehicle, same with these Transit Connects. There’s a specific audience.”

Photo courtesy of Rockershirt under the Creative Commons License