Ford Motor Company has recorded increased demand for compressed natural gas-powered (CNG) vehicles by commercial customers, citing the rising price of traditional fuel, significant government incentives and an increasing number of fuel stations as the main reasons. “Fleet managers are adding all the reasons up and concluding that it makes sense to switch to CNG now more than ever,” said Rod Phillips, Ford Commercial Business Manager of the New England area.
The cost benefit is clear. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, between September 2005 and January, the price per gallon equivalent of CNG peaked at $2.34 in the summer of 2008. The national average was $1.93 in January 2011, the same as it was in October 2010. Ford says that’s important at a time when the price of gas is flirting with $4 per gallon.
An additional benefit is the amount of funding available. Government incentives such as rebates or tax credits are prompting fleet owners to buy or convert their vehicles to run on CNG at reduced rates. For example, the federally funded Clean Cities Petroleum Reductions Program is providing $300 million in funding to regional projects across the United States. One project is the Connecticut Clean Cities Future Fuels Project, which partially covers the costs of converting a vehicle to CNG. That project alone plans to provide funding for a total of 264 alternative-fuel vehicles.
The incentives also are helping fund construction of CNG fueling stations. As a result, cities such as Tampa, Fla., and St. Louis soon will have their first public CNG stations.
Gerald Koss, marketing manager for Ford fleet operations, said Ford anticipated the infrastructure to support CNG vehicles would evolve and remained committed to its plans to bring CNG-powered commercial vehicles to market – even during economically challenged times.
“We took the chance that infrastructure would expand when we introduced our Transit Connect Taxi CNG capability in advance of any incentives for infrastructure or CNG conversions,” said Koss. “It turns out our timing couldn’t have been better.”
In addition to Ford Transit Connect Taxi, CNG is an option for Ford E-Series vans and F-Series Super Duty trucks.