2012 Ford Super Duty

According to AAA, the price of gas remains about 71 cents higher than at this time last year, which hurts anyone who drives a fuel-thirsty pickup truck for work or play. Fortunately for potential truck buyers, Ford recently announced that 2012 Ford Super Duty pickup trucks will offer a $315 setup kit to convert the base engine to run on compressed natural gas, rather than gasoline.

The F-Series Super Duty trucks already come standard with a 6.2-liter V8 engine that can burn either standard gas or E85 ethanol fuel. However, engines run far less efficiently on ethanol, which raises the annual cost of fuel. For instance, the EPA estimates that owners of a 2011 Chevrolet Suburban with four-wheel drive will spend about $3,100 on gas annually, while they would spend about $3,800 on ethanol annually.

Ford’s addition of a natural gas fuel option is good for shoppers because it will also save them money over diesel fuel. “Natural gas typically costs up to 50 percent less than diesel fuel on a per-gallon basis,” reports Automotive News.

A compressed natural gas conversion kit option is already offered on the Ford E-series and Transit Connect vans, even on models with a four-cylinder engine. Though the conversion setup is included in the $315 package, non-fleet buyers will have to purchase a separate compressed natural gas system and have it installed themselves. Shoppers can find kits for about $1,200 on eBay, and can buy natural gas at some gas stations.

If you’re in the market for a more fuel-efficient pickup but don’t want to depend on natural gas, you still have a few options. The Ford F-150 now comes with a V6 engine, which gets 16/22 mpg city/highway in two-wheel drive models. That’s approximately the same gas mileage as an average midsize SUV. You could also take a look at the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid, which gets 20/23 mpg city/highway. However, it also costs about $11,500 more than the V6 F-150.

Keep in mind, though, that neither of these trucks has nearly the capability of a heavy-duty truck like the Ford Super Duty. If you need real towing and hauling prowess with tangible fuel savings, your best bet will remain Super Duty’s optional diesel engine. The Power Stroke diesel may add a few thousand dollars to the price tag, but it doesn’t see a huge hit in fuel economy, and ups the truck’s performance significantly.

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