Trucks at Work

Can a bi-fuel Impala influence switch to natural gas?

General Motors plans to build a bi-fuel Chevrolet Impala sedan for retail and fleet customers for the 2015 model year – a car that will operate on either gasoline or compressed natural gas (CNG) – that it expects to be available for purchase next summer. So the question is: will this vehicle help convince everyday motorists to make the switch from petroleum-based fuels to natural gas?

As everyone knows, of course, GM and its competitors Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler’s Ram Truck division already offer bi-fuel pickup trucks for sale – vehicles aimed primarily at fleet operators.

Yet convincing consumers to favor natural gas as a vehicle fuel over gasoline and diesel is a changeup many hope will spur development of the most ticklish part of such a fuel conversion: funding the refueling infrastructure changes necessary to give natural gas wide availability.

GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson also noted that getting everyday drivers to switch over to natural gas is also part of a larger effort to improve the energy security footprint of the U.S., which is no doubt one reason why the automaker chose to unveil its bi-fuel Impala at a recent national energy summit held this week in Washington D.C.

“We know that U.S. energy security won’t come from a one-off moonshot,” Akerson (seen at right) said. “It will flow from our systematic investment in technology and innovation... our drive to get more from existing energy sources and renewables... our commitment to conservation... and it will be assured by fully and safely exploiting our shale gas reserves.”

[To view more photos of the 2015 Chevy Impala, click here.]

To alleviate concerns over range and reliability, he added that the soon-to-be-built 2015 bi-fuel Impala will feature a factory-engineered and fully warranted powertrain that switches seamlessly from CNG to gasoline, with total range expected to be up to 500 miles.

[There are of course technological changes consumers and fleets alike need to be aware of, illustrated below via a review of the 2013 bi-fuel pickups GM introduced for its 2013 models.]

Now of course the big question boils to one that’s at once simple yet complex: will consumers buy this bi-fuel Impala? Mayhap we’ll discover the answer by next summer. 

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