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Published: Wednesday, 7/31/2013

Ford F-150 to come with natural gas fuel choice

U.S. top-selling pickup to make switch by ’14

HOUSTON CHRONICLE

Ford Motor Co. will offer a natural-gas option for its 2014 F-150 pickup, turning drivers of America’s most popular vehicle into potential consumers of the low-cost fuel.

The option, announced Wednesday, will add a prospect for drivers hoping to use natural gas to fuel cars and light-duty trucks. Only one such vehicle — the Honda Civic Natural Gas — is available for direct sales to U.S. customers. Chrysler sells Ram 2500 pickup trucks that use compressed natural gas as its primary fuel source but automatically switch to gasoline when the natural gas tanks are emptied.

“We may look back on this launch as when natural gas really became a mass-market fuel for retail customers as well as fleet customers,” said Jon Coleman, sustainability and technology manager for Ford.

Though no one, not even Ford, is predicting large sales for the natural-gas versions of the F-150, it may draw particular interest in Texas, the nation’s top producer of natural gas and No. 1 buyer of pickups.

Ford’s F-series, of which the F-150 is the most popular model, has been the top-selling vehicle line in America.

Ford sold about 367,000 F-series trucks in the first half of the year, according to Automotive News. Toyota Motor Corp.’s Camry, the top-selling sedan, notched about 207,000 sales in the first half of 2013, according to the trade publication.

“Texas is such a huge truck market. By a long shot it’s the No. 1 truck market in the country,” said David Whiston, an analyst for investment research firm Morningstar. “So if there’s a lot of demand for natural gas and pickups in Texas alone, it’s not surprising to see Ford make this move.”

A vehicle running on natural gas emits less greenhouse gases than other fossil-fuel options. But Mr. Coleman said lower costs are the main attraction, because natural gas costs as much as $2 less for the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline.

Motorists can convert most vehicles to run on natural gas, though doing so may void engine warranties.

Ford will offer its 2014 F-150s with a $250-$350 option to come from the factory “prepped” for natural gas and related fuels. Buyers will pay for a post-factory conversion costing $7,500 to $9,500 before the vehicle arrives at a dealership, Mr. Coleman said.

The starting price for a base level F-150, with no add-ons or conversions, is about $24,000.



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