Surprise, because CNG or bi-fuel is most often thought of as a commercial application in larger than half-ton trucks only and the Texas Truck Rodeo usually attracts half-ton and larger trucks with features that are commercial (for work), but are more importantly configured in the half-ton for family and leisure use.
Ford introduced the F-150 CNG (compressed natural gas) bi-fuel half ton pickup truck to the alternative fuels market in August of this year and is the only manufacturer offering this bi-fuel option in the half-ton (full-size) pickup truck segment.
This 2014 Ford F-150 XLT Crew CNG was equipped with the 3.7L V6 with the CNG/LPG package added to enable gaseous-fuel operation (CNG and gas) interchangeably. The package includes hardened valves, valve seats, pistons and rings to enable it to run on either natural gas or gasoline through separate fuel systems.
Other than the fuel system change, this was strictly a Ford F-150 XLT complete with all of the features and functionality of the gasoline only version of the XLT.
The 2014 F-150 XLT CNG entered was a crew cab big enough to carry five or, with flip-up rear seating, able to carry cargo, tools or supplies as needed. This F-150 with its 6-speed automatic transmission and 3.73 rear axle was rated at 6,000 pounds of tow capacity with a trailer tow package, trailer sway control and integrated brake controller.
Ford says that they have heard from their current CNG users (as well as prospective customers) - already with bi-fuel fleets in three-quarter ton and larger trucks - that there was a need for the half-ton in their operations.
They are already using gasoline-fueled half-ton trucks to move crew members to and from job sites (with the crew cab) and for supervisors or managers to move about in the field. A half-ton option would enable commercial customers to maximize their fleet fuel servicing and cost savings capability by using the same fuel type (bi-fuel) vehicles throughout their fleets.
With a range of CNG fuel tanks available, the range of the F-150 CNG (depending on tank size) can be more than 750 miles with the 23 MPG average fuel economy of the 3.7L V6.
For those unfamiliar with bi-fuel CNG equipped trucks, the trucks also run on gasoline and have a gasoline fuel tank as well. The driver selects the fuel they want to use via a switch in the cab and start their truck. Most fleets run on CNG most of the time as it is cheaper, using the gasoline option as a backup or reserve when CNG refueling is not readily available.
A Ford F-150 CNG truck has the engine prep for gaseous fuel operation installed at the Ford factory for $315 additional to the price of the truck and options selected. The customer then chooses a Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier (QVM) to supply the tanks, fuel lines and unique fuel injectors. Depending on size and placement of the CNG tank, costs could run another $7,500 to $9,500.
With the addition of the F-150, Ford will be offering a CNG/LPG prep option on eight vehicles in 2014 including Transit Connect van and wagon, Transit van, E-series van, F-series Super Duty pickup, F-350 chassis cab, F-450 / F-550 chassis cab, F-650 medium duty and the F-53 / F-59 chassis.
Up until now, the focus has been on commercial applications for CNG or bi-fuel by most manufacturers.
This entry of a 2014 F-150 XLT Crew CNG into the Texas Truck Rodeo competition signals that, with its $1.50 to $2.00 per gallon fuel cost advantage and expanding retail fueling location availability, bi-fuel vehicles are likely to move into the consumer markets in the future.
Interestingly, just following the Texas Truck Rodeo, GM announced that they were planning on offering a CNG bi-fuel option in 2015 for their Chevrolet Impala passenger sedan. The Impala is sold heavily into fleets but GM said that it would be available for retail consumer customers as well.
If there was any doubt as to the capability of a Ford F-150 pickup powered by CNG (and gasoline) it was quickly dispelled as Texas Auto Writer journalists attending took this truck for turns around the Knibbe Ranch property and out onto the nearby highways during the event.
At the end of the two-day competition for the final Truck of Texas trophy, this new 2014 F-150 XLT Crew CNG received a very respectable number of votes in its full-size pickup category where it matched up against the 2014 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn, 2014 Toyota Tundra CrewMax Platinum and the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Z71 LTZ.
The eventual winner of the category and the Truck of Texas was the 2014 Ram 1500.
But, based on scoring and the many favorable journalist comments, this new 2014 Ford F-150 CNG drove very well against the competitors at the Texas Truck Rodeo.
When will your neighbor be driving one as a family truck? Not sure, but it could be sooner rather than later.