CNG-compatible Ford F-150 on sale in 2014

After finding success with the technology across its commercial truck lineup, Ford will be introducing a natural gas prep kit for the 2014 F-150 pickup, making it the only half-ton pickup available so equipped.

The $315 option will be available for the 3.7-liter V6, and can be ordered with any F-150 configuration offered with that engine.

The kit includes specially engineered valves, valve seats, pistons and rings that allow the motor to operate on either compressed natural gas (CNG), liquid petroleum gas (LPG) or gasoline.

After purchase, customers will need to have a CNG/LPG system installed by one of Ford’s approved qualified vehicle modifiers, which typically costs from $7,500-$9,500. Chevrolet and Ram both offer CNG-equipped heavy duty pickups from the factory for about $11,000 over the standard models.

The appeal of natural gas is its largely domestic production and low price compared to gasoline. The national average is just over $2.00 per gallon equivalent and it can be had for less than $1.00 in some states, including Oklahoma.

Dedicated CNG/LPG systems are available, but Ford Truck’s Product Development Sustainability Product Manager, Dick Cupka, says customers for the company’s current vehicles largely go for bi-fuel upfits that allow the trucks to run on either natural gas or gasoline, adding flexibility in their operation.

The kits are currently available in Ford's Transit connect and E-Series vans, along with its heavy duty pickups and chassis cabs. Cupka says it expects to sell over 15,000 trucks with the prep kit this year.

But while commercial customers have accounted for the bulk of sales of these types of vehicles so far, given the popularity of the F-150 and increasing interest in natural gas as a motor fuel, Cubka thinks this latest application could make the crossover to more private retail buyers.

The lack of a refueling infrastructure remains the greatest hurdle to the wide adoption of these alternative fuels, but fleets often set up their own pumps at a central location and home fueling systems are available for houses already heated by natural gas.

Production of F-150s fitted with the prep kit begins in November, but Ford will start taking orders for them in August when the books open on the 2014 models.