Ford has been generating a lot of publicity about its aluminum-bodied F-150, especially in reference to the lighter weight’s aiding fuel economy. Now, the company has taken environmental friendliness a step farther with the introduction of a natural gas alternative.
This is not news for Ford because since in the past six years it has sold more than 57,000 vehicles prepped to run on either natural gas (NGV) or propane — more than seven times that of the other North American automakers combined — including newer conversions on F-Series and F-Series Super Duty, and Transit and Transit Connect vans. Originally the conversion was available only on the Econoline vans and wagons.
“The growth in interest for CNG/propane-prepped vehicles shows a shift in fleet customers’ mindsets,” says Dick Cupka, Ford commercial vehicle sustainability leader. “They are becoming more forward-thinking about alternative fuels, taking into account their total cost of ownership and looking for ways to reduce their vehicle emissions.”
The news is that for the 2016 model year, the gas conversion will be available with the 5.0-litre V8 engined F-150 (the previous generation had the conversion available on the 3.7 V6). That makes it the only maker with an NGV/propane half-ton pickup made-to-order from a dealership.
“We surveyed customers likely to use natural gas or propane, and 72 percent told us they want to have these alternative-fuel capabilities available on F-150 with the 5.0-litre V8,” said Jon Coleman, Ford fleet sustainability and technology manager.
The Ford conversion allows owners to keep their vehicles’ powertrain warranties, compared to having a vehicle modified privately after delivery, and save money in operating costs, with both gases having lower pump prices. The prices are also more stable than those of gasoline or diesel. The main benefit of the gaseous conversion is cleaner tailpipe emissions.
As for performance, the converted F-150 will have the same payload and tow ratings as the conventional V8-engined F-150, though payload will have to factor in the added weight of the installed CNG or propane system. Combine that with the lightweight materials, and the 2016 version has a better hauling capacity than the 2014 version.
The conversion includes upgraded fuel lines, intake and exhaust valves and valve-seats, unique fuel injectors, and a choice of fuel tank sizes.
Depending on the fuel tank capacity, the conversion to natural gas or propane could cost an extra $10,000 .
Ford sold a record 16,821 commercial vehicles with CNG/propane gaseous engine-prep packages in 2014, with the F-Series Super Duty being the most popular. F-150s accounted for 2,000 and the full-sized Transit van accounted for another 836. The Transit Connect (the only compact van sold with the gas conversion) accounted for 762 sales in 2014, and has already surpassed that for 2015 (thus far accounting for 838 sales).