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General Motors New Bi-Fuel Saloon

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The DriveWrite Archives Topics:  Chevrolet Impala

General Motors New Bi-Fuel Saloon

Geoff Maxted
October 17, 2013

Chevrolet Impala CNG
In what some may consider a slightly controversial move General Motors in the USA is to produce a car that runs on both petrol and compressed natural gas. This is to take advantage of the boom in the exploitation of American shale gas reserves by process of hydraulic fracturing; otherwise known as fracking. This has made the fuel considerably cheaper and thus a viable alternative.

General Motors said it will sell a version of the Chevrolet Impala saloon (based on the company’s Epsilon midsize global platform which includes our Insignia) with the ability to switch between regular fuel and natural gas. The new car will have one engine and two fuel tanks - one for petrol and one for gas. That means drivers could almost instantly switch between fuels, depending on what is cheap and available.

Some manufacturers already make trucks that run on gas but by launching a full-sized saloon that runs on the stuff, GM is suggesting that it sees a future for the fuel in the passenger car market. Apparently this stylish 2014 model will have a combined range of up to 500 miles, with a large enough tank for 350 miles of driving on petrol and a large enough CNG tank for 150 miles. Although the car will be available for general sale from 2015 the company believes that its natural home will be in the business fleet market where fuel efficiency rules.

Up until now natural gas was considered to be a poor alternative for cars but thanks to the new process of extraction car makers are giving the fuel another look. Natural gas is already driving buses and the like that can be topped at a depot and Honda have sold a gas Civic for a long time but with this cheaper product it can’t be long before other manufacturers start to investigate further.

Obviously, even in America, there isn’t much of an infrastructure in place and for it to be universally accepted as an alternative fuel this would have to change, which is why GM are hedging their bets with the dual fuel option, much like a regular hybrid.

How it would be received in this country is another matter. Fracking is a controversial issue. If the industry does decide to go for it in a big way this will only increase the industry calls for more exploration and that in turn will further fuel the flames of dissent. We will have to wait and see how the Impala is received in the USA.

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