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Silverado 2500HD enters Bi-Fuel CNG market as Chevy adds more vehicle choices

2015 Silverado HD bi-fuel CNG is same capable truck as the gas or diesel
2015 Silverado HD bi-fuel CNG is same capable truck as the gas or diesel
austinautoboomer by permission

The new 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD pickup trucks - powered by the bi-fuel CNG power train option - are now arriving in the Chevrolet dealer network. The CNG option is available on all Silverado 2500HD and Silverado 3500HD models with single rear wheels including the Work Truck (WT), LT and LTZ trims, in regular cab, double cab and crew cab configurations, with 2- or 4-wheel drive and with either the 6-foot or eight-foot cargo boxes.

Silverado 2500HD with bi-fuel CNG is essentially same as gas or diesel version
Silverado 2500HD with bi-fuel CNG is essentially same as gas or diesel version
austinautoboomer by permission

With this extensive array of HD (heavy duty) pickup trucks now available, Chevrolet is moving to a leadership position in the bi-fuel CNG market as they also add the 2015 Chevrolet Impala sedan and 2015 Chevrolet Express cargo and passenger short-wheelbase vans with the dedicated bi-fuel CNG option to their line-up.

Our Silverado 2500 HD Bi-Fuel CNG test truck
Chevrolet recently provided us a factory fresh 2015 Silverado 2500HD 4WD LT Crew Cab Bi-fuel CNG pickup with the 6-foot cargo box for a week long test drive. We need to point out right up front that, essentially, the Silverado 2500HD is exactly the same truck you would order in conventional gasoline powered or diesel version with only a couple of changes of note directly related to the bi-fuel CNG power train.

The new 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD Bi-fuel CNG trucks are engineered and outfitted the same as the gasoline and diesel versions. They come with the same standard and/or optional features including the innovative CornerStep bumpers, EZ Lift-and-Lower tailgates, new cabs and interiors with lots of convenient storage space, the new MyLink with additional connectivity features, cruise control integrated with new Auto Grade Braking to help make trailering easier and standard StabiliTrak with Trailer Sway Control on all models. Safety features such as Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning with an Active Safety Seat, and Front and Rear Park Assist are also available on the 2015 Silverado HD.

Our Silverado 2500HD Crew Cab 4WD test truck had an MSRP of $42,655 before adding optional packages, accessories and the Bi-fuel CNG System. It was equipped with the standard Vortec V8 which – running on gasoline – produces 360 horsepower with 380 lb.-ft of torque. The Silverado 2500 comes standard (gasoline or CNG) with the GM 6L90 Hydra-Matic six-speed automatic transmission.

When equipped with the 4.10 rear axle, the available special Trailering Package ($905) provides a hitch tow capacity of 13,000 pounds. While running in CNG mode, the Vortec LC8 engine has a slightly reduced output of 301 horsepower and 333 lb.-ft. of torque that has negligible impact on the performance (tow/haul) capability of the truck.

Other commonly ordered options that were included on our test truck started with the Convenience Package ($1,525) that added Power Seats, Dual Zone Climate Control, Remote Start, Rear View Camera, Rear Window Defroster and a 110-volt Power Outlet. The LT Plus Package ($535) included Power Adjustable Pedals and Rear Park Assist. The Chevrolet MyLink Audio with Navigation and 8-inch Color Touch Display was $495; 6-inch Tubular Assist Steps were $700; Heated Front Bucket Seating with Power Driver and Passenger Adjustment was $795; a Cargo Convenience Package with Tilt and Telescoping Steering Wheel, Cargo Bed Tie-downs and Floor Mats were also added bringing the sub-total for this Silverado 2500HD to $48,205 not including delivery.

Bi-fuel CNG system costs more
The CNG optional power train added another $9,500 to the cost of the truck for converting the standard Vortec 6.0L V8 engine to the LC8 version in order to run gasoline and CNG interchangeably - plus add the CNG tank and related valve/piping/control systems to manage the bi-fuel capability. Note that this upcharge is similar to the cost to order this truck with the 6.6L Turbo Diesel power train instead of the standard gasoline V8.

With delivery, our test 2015 Silverado 2500 4WD LT Crew Cab Bi-fuel CNG pickup with the 6-foot cargo box priced out at $58,800.

Bi-fuel CNG truck is not so different
On the outside, what you will note that is different (in addition to the CNG badges) about the bi-fuel CNG Silverado 2500HD is the addition of the CNG tank - which holds 17 gasoline-gallon-equivalents (GGE) of CNG plus the fueling system at the front of the cargo bed. With this separate CNG tank added, Silverado HD bi-fuel models can have a gasoline/CNG range of up to 650 miles, according to Chevrolet.

The tank system adds 655 pounds to the truck weight – actually improving the empty load ride and road handling characteristics of the truck. The down-side is that it takes up about 25-inches or about 32 percent of the cubic capacity of the 6-foot cargo bed truck. But, even with the CNG tank, the max cargo payload is still 3,651 pounds. The positioning of the tank does not allow the installation of a fifth-wheel towing package in this truck – limiting towing to hitch mode only.

CNG truck is easy to operate
A bi-fuel CNG truck is not complicated to operate. It always starts in gasoline mode and, then, by flipping a center stack located selector switch to CNG, it will seamlessly begin to run on CNG instead of gasoline. Gauges for each fuel run simultaneously keeping the driver fully aware of their fuel condition at all times. In the event, the truck should run out of CNG, it will automatically switch, while running, to gasoline.

CNG – cheaper than gas but not as available
Not only does CNG run cleaner than gasoline – it is measurably cheaper too. CNG (measured in GGE) costs nearly $1.50 less per gallon than gasoline. But there is the initial bi-fuel CNG power train cost to amortize that offsets that fuel saving for some period. A calculator available at the website cngnow.com suggests that driving our particular test truck 36,000 miles annually and getting around 16 mpg, we could expect to have amortized the initial cost in about three years – putting the $3,100 fuel savings annually thereafter into our pocket.

Unfortunately for general public use, the bi-fuel CNG option is further complicated by the lack of available fueling infrastructure across the country. Recent figures show about 1,500 consumer fueling locations currently available (about 1 percent of the traditional gas stations out there). The number of CNG locations is slowly but steadily growing. However, most of that growth is on or near major metropolitan industrial areas or interstate highways. If one is driving a vehicle with bi-fuel CNG requirements, they can locate fueling stations along the way by accessing the cngnow.com website or using one of several available smartphone (iPhone and Android) apps.

As a result, for now, the dedicated bi-fuel CNG 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD - plus the 2015 Chevrolet Impala sedan and 2015 Chevrolet Express cargo and passenger vans - are primarily targeted to the business fleet operator or municipalities and utility service companies who can optimize the lower fuel cost of CNG, combined with gasoline and across many vehicles that are driven a large number of miles annually - and who have access to or can install and operate a CNG fuel station as part of their fleet maintenance facilities.

Maintenance and Warranty
The bi-fuel CNG conversion of a Silverado 2500HD or 3500HD is completed and tested by a tier-one factory certified up fitter before the vehicle is transferred to the dealer for customer delivery. GM warrants and validates the fuel systems of the 2015 Silverado HD bi-fuel trucks with its five-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty.

A bi-fuel CNG Chevrolet Silverado can be serviced at any Chevrolet dealer location. All major components associated with the CNG system carry GM service part numbers and are available throughout the dealer network.

The 2015 Silverado 2500HD 4WD LT Crew Cab Bi-fuel CNG pickup with any of the three power train fuel options is solid performing truck with lots of comfort, convenience and capability. The bi-fuel CNG fuel option is still beyond the convenient reach of the everyday user, but the growing demand for cleaner fuel options with lower costs will slowly (with more availability) move that fuel segment option closer to a wider range of users. Chevrolet is ready now.