Fiat May Bring Natural-Gas Cars to the U.S.


  • Fiat Panda CNG Picture

    Fiat Panda CNG Picture

    Fiat's CNG technology could be on its way to the U.S. | March 14, 2013

4 Photos

Just the Facts:
  • A Fiat executive told Edmunds that the company is looking at bringing its CNG or compressed natural gas technology to the U.S. for Fiat-branded vehicles, but that no official plan or time is in place at this point.
  • In Italy, the Fiat 500L is one of a range of models that is already available with Fiat's unique 0.9-liter TwinAir CNG engine.
  • Chrysler already offers a CNG-powered 2013 Ram 2500 truck in the U.S. and the CNG technology in the European Fiat Panda could transfer to U.S. Fiat brand models.

MILAN, Italy — A Fiat executive told Edmunds that the company is looking at bringing its CNG or compressed natural gas technology to the U.S. for Fiat-branded vehicles, but that no official plan or time is in place at this point.

In Italy, the Fiat 500L is one of a range of models that is already available with Fiat's unique 0.9-liter TwinAir CNG engine. Fiat offers a wide range of CNG vehicles in Italy, in the Panda and the newly introduced 500L. The 2014 Fiat 500L will debut in the U.S. later this year.

Chrysler already offers a CNG-powered 2013 Ram 2500 truck in the U.S. and the CNG technology in the European Fiat Panda could transfer to U.S. Fiat brand models.

A Fiat CNG car would likely compete with the 2013 Honda Civic Natural Gas. The base Civic Natural Gas starts at $27,255, including a $790 destination charge. Honda says it returns 27 mpg in city driving and 38 mpg on the highway.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels Data Center says there are few light-duty dedicated natural gas vehicles in the U.S. that are available directly from major original equipment manufacturers. They include the Ram 2500 truck, the Civic Natural Gas and the natural gas Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana. The natural gas Civic has the cleanest EPA air pollution rating of any internal combustion vehicle, according to the federal government.

The downside for U.S. consumers is that the federal government says there are just 566 CNG refueling stations here, excluding private stations.

While not new, CNG is one of the more promising alternative clean power sources, helping to reduce dependence on crude oil and lowering CO2 emissions.

As Fiat and others have discovered, CNG comes with some clear benefits. It is an intrinsically cheaper, less complicated technology compared to hybrids and electric cars. For the customer, the cost of filling up with CNG is also low.

Fiat says taking a Panda with an 875cc TwinAir engine as an example, the fuel cost of driving from Milan to Rome (360 miles) would be 18 Euros ($23.45) with CNG, versus 45 Euros ($58.60) with the stock TwinAir engine.

Granted, Italy has some of the most expensive fuel in the world.

The downsides include the relative lack of CNG refueling stations and the extra weight and cost of installing the CNG tank into the vehicle, which transfers inevitably to the sticker price.

Edmunds says: Fiat may have found a hole in the market as it ponders its CNG strategy for the U.S.

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