Chevrolet last month announced pricing for the 2015 Chevy Impala bi-fuel, which it said will go on sale by the end of 2014. The Impala will available to consumers nationwide at a base price of $38,210. The car will be sold in both the LS and LT trim levels, though pricing for the more expensive LT model hasn’t yet been announced.
The Impala bi-fuel will be one of just two sedans on the U.S. market that runs on compressed natural gas. The other is the Honda Civic Natural Gas (formerly GX), which has been sold on a limited basis since 1998. In 2009, Honda made the Civic Natural Gas available to all U.S. dealerships within a 20-mile radius of a public CNG filling station. Last year, Honda sold about 2,200 units of the car, which starts at $26,640.
What separates the Impala from the Civic that runs on natural gas is the Impala’s ability to run on two fuels: both liquid gasoline and gaseous CNG. The convenience of switching back and forth between two fuels (known as as a bi-fuel option) could make the car more attractive to some consumers and fleet owners despite the higher price. The Impala will have a natural gas range of about 150 miles, which when coupled with a full tank of gasoline will yield 500 miles of travel without having to refuel.
Another attraction should be the Impala’s size. While the Civic GX’s status as a compact drops it out of consideration for most taxi drivers, the Impala is a full-size sedan. Ford previously sold a CNG-ready version of the Crown Victoria to fleet owners before discontinuing the Crown Vic entirely in 2011.
The Case For CNG
This isn’t General Motors’s first time around the block with CNG vehicles. In 2000, the carmaker began selling a bi-fuel edition of the Chevy Cavalier. Several of those (used) cars can often be found on eBay Motors—for a lot less than $38,000. Chevy also sells CNG-capable versions of the Silverado and Sierra pickups, as well as its 2500 cargo van.
Natural gas is cleaner and cheaper than gasoline—$1.25 per gallon cheaper on average. Whether or not it will be a viable mainstream consumer fuel depends on how much carmakers embrace the technology and how easy it is for drivers to access public filling stations.
There are currently just 711 publicly available natural gas fueling stations in the United States, according to Department of Energy. If you’re thinking of buying a CNG-capable vehicle, it’s important to consider your proximity to one of those stations.
Article by Brad Berman, appearing courtesy ebay Green Driving.