- A version of the 2015 Chevrolet Impala will run on either gasoline or compressed natural gas, GM said on Wednesday.
- The bi-fuel Impala will go on sale next summer.
- Pricing was not announced.
WASHINGTON — A version of the 2015 Chevrolet Impala will run on either gasoline or compressed natural gas, GM said on Wednesday.
The bi-fuel Impala will go on sale next summer and will be sold to retail and fleet customers. Pricing was not announced.
GM said it will be the only manufacturer to build a full-size bi-fuel sedan in North America. Only Honda has a natural-gas powered car on sale that is aimed at consumers and not fleet operators. It is the 2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas, which starts at $27,255, including a $790 destination charge.
The bi-fuel Impala may be a compelling choice for consumers, since it eliminates worries about finding a CNG station. GM notes that CNG stations are "far from ubiquitous." Today, there are about 1,200 nationwide and only about half are open to the public. This compares with more than 168,000 retail gasoline stations.
GM made the Impala announcement during GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson's address to the OPEC Oil Embargo +40 energy conference, a summit convened to discuss the current and future states of U.S. energy security. Sponsored by SAFE (Securing America's Future Energy), the conference marks the 40th anniversary of the OPEC oil embargo that triggered a fuel shortage across the country.
CNG-powered passenger cars are common in other parts of the world, but in the U.S. CNG has been most popular with fleet operators, especially those who run delivery and service operations in which vehicles circle back regularly to a central location where they can easily be refueled.
GM and Chrysler began offering bi-fuel versions of their pickup trucks in 2013. And Ford has introduced a dual-fuel version of its popular F-150 pickup for the 2014 model year.
Now, with the announcement of its bi-fuel Impala, GM has upped the ante for the CNG passenger-car market. Although, Akerson cautions, "as compelling as the Impala story is, let me be clear about one thing up front: our volumes will be small, at least initially. Most of our customers are going to be commercial and government fleets, and selling 750 to 1,000 units in the first model year would be a home run."
He added: "Natural gas is a cleaner-burning transportation fuel compared to petroleum products, and costs significantly less than gasoline at current prices."
There's also a lot of the stuff available in this country. According to the Web site AllAboutCNGVehicles.com, the U.S. is responsible for about 25 percent of the world's natural gas production. So increasing its use in both fleets and passenger vehicles can help reduce dependence on oil imports.
One drawback has been the higher cost of CNG-powered vehicles compared to their conventional-fuel counterparts. The average premium is about $3,500, according to AllAboutCNGVehicles.com. And there's also the problem of packaging the high-pressure tanks and lines needed for CNG delivery.
But Akerson says: "We have teams working on these challenges, and they are squarely focused on commercializing their research."
Edmunds says: The introduction of a bi-fuel Impala provides one more option to consumers looking for alternatives to conventional gasoline power.