With all the talk of environmental concerns, energy dependence and air quality these days, many commercial fleet operators are looking to alternative solutions to power their vehicles and perhaps save a bit of money in the process. In North America, one of the cheapest and certainly most practical alternatives has been Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Taxi fleets have been using CNG fueled cars for years and increasingly other segments of the commercial vehicle sector are adopting it, including those that rely on pickups and vans for delivery or contract work.
However, many conversions were traditionally handled, not by the automakers, but outside contractors, which could potentially result in quality and reliability issues, not to mention the fact that such vehicles weren’t backed by the manufacturer’s warranty. However, General Motors is changing all that by performing CNG conversions on it’s full-size vans, the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana in-house.
The vans will be covered by GM’s standard three-year, 36,000 mile new vehicle warranty and a 100,000 mile, five-year powertrain warranty. In addition, with the CNG conversion, the vans will meet all required CARB, EPA smog requirements as well as federal vehicle safety standards, much like their regular gasoline engined counterparts.
“Our focus from the beginning has been to offer fleet customers a simple ‘check the box’ approach with our CNG Chevrolet Express and Savana vans,” declared Brian Small, general manager, GM Fleet and Commercial Operations. “Our robust production process is a key enabler and certainly separates us from any competitive offering.”
GM will manufacturer 6.0-liter Vortech V8s for the CNG vans with hardened valves and seats to cope with the gaseous fuel, which will be shipped to the Wentzville, Missouri plant where the vans are built and installed into them, directly on the assembly line.
Part of making effective use of an alternative fuel such as CNG, is being able to successfully store and distribute it and for that, GM has teamed up with Productive Concepts, an Indiana based alternative fuels company, who will also be involved in the engine manufacturing process and helping ensure the required emissions standards are met.