In the ongoing trend toward vehicles that get better mileage on cleaner fuels, GM thinks natural gas is a natural progression. The automaker today announced plans for a bi-fuel-powered car that can run on either gasoline or compressed natural gas. First reported by cnbc.com, GM later released a statement about the plans.
A Chevrolet Impala will house the bi-fuel system but no price was announced. The company says the vehicle is slated to go on sale next summer to both fleet customers and regular consumers. The car has a compressed-natural-gas, or CNG, range of 150 miles and a gasoline range of an additional 350 miles, with the ability to switch between the two while driving, according to cnbc.com.
In addition to higher sticker prices — likely many thousands of dollars more than regular-gas models — availability of CNG refueling stations has been an impediment to the technology's adoption. Only 650 CNG stations exist nationwide compared with more than 168,000 gas stations, cnbc.com reported.
CNGs aren't popular, but they’re sure hard to find. Besides a handful of pickup trucks only one CNG-powered model is available to consumers, the Honda Civic CNG. Of the 46,000 Honda Civics available in Cars.com's new-car inventory, only 194 (less than a half percent) are the CNG model. The Civic has no backup reservoir — so if you run out of natural gas, you're stranded. The Impala's ability to switch between the two fuels alleviates this concern. It is a similar strategy to the one GM took toward electric cars, rolling out a range-extender in the Chevy Volt.
The benefits of CNG could be significant upon wide adoption. CNGs are said to reduce emissions by 80 percent compared with gas, and the fuel now costs $2.14 a gallon compared with the current national average of about $3.35 a gallon for regular gas.