WASHINGTON Oct 16 General Motors Co will
begin selling a mid-sized sedan next summer that can be powered
by either gasoline or compressed natural gas, the U.S.
automaker's chief executive said on Wednesday.
The 2015 Chevrolet Impala, GM's first car powered by natural
gas, will feature a powertrain that switches from compressed
natural gas to gasoline seamlessly and has a total driving range
of up to 500 miles, Dan Akerson said in a speech to be delivered
at an energy summit in Washington.
The car, which will have one fuel tank for compressed
natural gas and a second one for gasoline, will be sold to both
retail and fleet customers.
Natural gas is a cleaner-burning, less costly fuel than
gasoline, and vehicles powered by compressed natural gas
typically emit 20 percent less greenhouse gases than gas-powered
cars, GM said, citing the California Air Resources Board.
New techniques unlocking vast reserves of natural gas from
shale have produced a boom in U.S. supplies and driven down
prices, increasing interest in the fuel.
The numbers of CNG vehicles remain small. According to the
industry group Natural Gas Vehicles for America, about 130,000
to 135,000 natural gas vehicles operate in the United States and
more than 16 million globally, most of them commercial and fleet
vehicles such as buses and garbage trucks.
The number of natural gas filling stations totals about
1,350 in the United States, about half of which are open to the
public. That compares with about 168,000 retail gasoline
stations, Akerson said.
GM previously said that next year it would begin selling
bi-fuel versions of its heavy-duty Chevy Silverado and GMC
Sierra pickup trucks and natural gas versions of its Chevy
Express and GMC Savana passenger vans.
Honda Motor Co sells a CNG-powered Civic. Ford
Motor Co prepares its trucks and vans so that specialty
companies can convert them to run on compressed natural gas,
including its top-selling F-Series pickup truck, starting next
The bi-fuel Impala is meant to address range anxiety
associated with vehicles that operate on natural gas only, much
like GM's Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid car was designed to do for
electric cars, Akerson said. It will carry a factory warranty on
the powertrain and fuel system.
GM did not disclose how much the bi-fuel Impala will cost,
but regular versions start at about $27,700.
"Natural gas powertrains are one of the areas where we have
increased investment because we believe the technology can
satisfy the 'green' needs of both the environment and the
stockholders," Akerson said in the speech.
Citing the lack of CNG gas stations, Akerson said the
volumes for the bi-fuel Impala will initially be small with most
sales to commercial and government fleets. He said selling 750
to 1,000 of the cars in the first model year would be "a home
He also repeated his call for the Obama administration and
Congress to create a consumer-driven national energy policy. In
March, he said President Barack Obama should appoint a
commission to develop a 30-year U.S. energy policy framework
that includes energy producers, labor groups and energy
consumers such as GM.
In March, Akerson also said that natural gas as a motor fuel
represents a "huge and largely untapped opportunity for
commercial fleets and long-haul truckers."