2013 Chevrolet Silverado HD

Next month, Chevrolet and GMC dealers will begin taking orders for 2013 Silverado 2500 HD and Sierra 2500 HD pickup trucks equipped with a new bi-fuel system that can power the trucks on either gasoline or compressed natural gas (CNG), according to a General Motors press release. When these trucks go on sale in April, they’ll be the only heavy-duty trucks available with a full CNG system that can easily switch back and forth between regular gasoline and natural gas.

Though the competing Ford Super Duty offers upgraded engine parts that are compatible with compressed natural gas, this $315 upgrade doesn’t include most of the essential fuel system parts needed to accommodate natural gas.

Last year, Fred Diaz, president and CEO of the Ram truck brand, said that Chrysler was considering adding a CNG option to its Ram 2500 and 3500 HD trucks, according to Bloomberg. The system is still in development, however.

Automakers are looking to add compressed natural gas to their alternative fuel lineup as the price of gasoline and diesel reaches new highs, and as buyers become more conscious about emissions and environmental impact. According to AAA, average diesel prices are 22 cents higher per gallon than they were a year ago, and regular gas is 26 cents per gallon higher on average than a year ago.

In comparison, CNG is significantly less expensive than both gas and diesel. A gallon equivalent of CNG cost about $2.13 in January, and CNG prices tend to be more stable than gas and diesel, according to The Detroit News.

However, natural gas is much harder to find than gas, diesel or even electric charging stations, which may limit its usefulness for some potential buyers. For instance, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are 13 CNG fueling stations within a 100-mile radius of Washington, D.C., while there are more than 760 electric charging locations within 20 miles of downtown D.C.

Though prices for the CNG-compatible Silverado and Sierra haven’t been announced yet, equivalent CNG fuel systems on GM’s Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana passenger vans cost about $15,000. That’s a hefty price increase, but it includes an upgraded engine, four-tank fuel system and extra trailering equipment, among other extra features. Dealers will begin taking orders for bi-fuel Silverado and Sierra HD trucks next month, but GM hasn’t mentioned when delivery will begin.

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