While the Ram 2500 SLT 4WD Crew Cab pickup with Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fuel capability may not be for everyone, it really shines for fleet owners or contractors who want to save fuel costs.
When I booked the Ram 2500 CNG, I was under the impression there was a CNG filling station at the Exxon UniMart on Route 309 in Walberts, according to a local newspaper announcement. Well the holding tank was there, but not yet installed. As such, I wasn’t able to fill up with CNG. (It was up and running though as of 5-10-13)
But that’s no problem since the Ram 2500 CNG is also able to run on gasoline as well. As such, it’s referred to as a Bi-fuel vehicle, meaning it has two separate fueling systems. On the Ram, Chrysler says the Ram has a CNG range of 301 miles and a backup supply of gasoline that extends total range to 966 miles. And it should be interesting to note that the Ram CNG reduces C02 emissions by approximately 20 percent, while tailpipe emissions, such as NOX, are reduced by more than 50 percent.
Before delving into the workings of the Ram CNG, allow me to offer some insight into CNG.
CNG is a natural gas under pressure, which remains clear, odorless and non-corrosive. Although vehicles can use natural gas as either a liquid or a gas, most vehicles use the gaseous form compressed to pressures above 3,100 pounds per square inch. It is stored in thick-walled steel, aluminum or composite tanks built to last more than 20 years according to the Consumer Energy Center.
CNG comes from three types of wells: natural gas, condensate and coal bed methane wells. Well-extracted natural gas, however, requires a cleaning process before it can be used in vehicles.
While natural gas is relatively new to the U.S., foreign countries have been using it for years. Iran is the largest user, followed by Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil, India, Italy, China, Columbia, Uzbekistan and Thailand. At last count, there were about 112,000 CNG vehicles in the U.S. and roughly 14.8 million vehicles worldwide, according to the Dept. of Energy.
CNG vehicles are good choices for high-mileage centrally-fueled fleets that operate within a limited area. Their primary advantages are that it costs about 50 percent less than diesel fuel or gasoline (at Walberts UniMart Exxon, last week, it was selling for $2.19.9/GGE – Gas Gallons Equivalent), it’s clean burning, less corrosive over gasoline and reduces emissions up to 90 percent compared to diesel fuel or gasoline. Mileage ratings are about the same for gasoline or CNG, with CNG likely offering one gallon/mile highway mpg better.
On the Ram, the CNG fuel system transfers high-pressure natural gas from the storage tank to the engine while reducing the pressure of the gas to the operating pressure of the engine’s fuel management system. CNG is injected into the engine intake air the same way gasoline is injected into a gasoline-only engine.
The Ram’s 5.7L, 383-hp HEMI V8 bi-fuel engine functions the same as it does under gasoline power. The fuel-air mixture is compressed and ignited by a spark plug and the expanding gases produce rotational forces that propel the vehicle.
There are only two drawbacks to the CNG Ram. First it’s higher priced than conventional Ram’s. My test truck bottom-lined at $57,745 (after a base of $40,745) of which $11,000 of that is for the accommodating engine conversion, 260-liter CNG tank and 8-gallon fuel tank. But this cost also reflects a long list of amenities including a 40GB hard drive, 6.5-inch Touch Screen display, power adjustable pedals, Uconnect, rearview camera, GPS nav and loads more.
The other drawback is that the CNG metal tank box takes up 41 inches of cargo depth. That leaves enough room for a portable generator, power saws and small tools. But to carry ladders, 2x4s, PVC piping, 4×8 sheets of plywood or other long items, an aftermarket rack system could be installed.
Upon inquiring with Ram about using the space in the Crew Cab to free up cargo space, a Ram spokesman said that it wouldn’t be practical as the tanks have to have their own segregated space.
Otherwise the Ram SLT 4-door Crew Cab is one good-looking truck with a spacious interior that is comparable to most sedans with seating for six in a pinch. Step-in is an easy 25.5 inches while load height is 35.75 inches.
For towing, the Ram Crew Cab with 6-speed automatic transmission came standard with a trailer brake controller and hitch and is rated at 7,650 pounds for the 4WD model. It also had a “Light Load Inflation” system that senses if the passenger or cargo weights are less than the light load pressure shown on the tire pressure information label. It will automatically inflate or deflate to correct the load pressure.
Ram’s 4WD system consists of 2WD, 4WD Lock and 4WD Low modes. The upgraded system includes automatic 4WD mode that is nice to have on rain slicked roads, especially when pulling out from an uphill stop.
As a three-quarter ton pickup, the Ram SLT rode as well as some sedans. It’s smooth, quiet and with a load in the bed, rides even softer.
As the Walberts area Exxon is the first CNG filling station in the Allentown area, owner, Lehigh Gas headquartered in Allentown, also has stations in King of Prussia, Concordville and two locations near the Philly International Airport.
While it will be improbable that any local Ram dealer would have a CNG truck in stock, if you’re serious about buying one, it’s likely the dealer would find a unit for you to check out.
And if you’d like to find a CNG filling station near you, there’s an app available for iPhones and Androids by checking “CNG Fuel Finder.” The app gives locations, prices and ratings.
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