GM to Develop Trucks That Run on Natural Gas
General Motors Corp. and a natural gas industry group Monday announced a $39-million project to build light- and medium-duty commercial trucks powered by natural gas.
The project, co-sponsored by a gas industry consortium led by the Gas Research Institute, would be part of GM’s broader program to explore alternative-fuel vehicles that would meet federal and state clean air requirements.
It would also build on a program announced last year to test-market at least 1,000 natural gas-powered light-duty Sierra pickup trucks in early 1991 for fleet use in California and Texas.
The GM Truck & Bus Group would contribute $24.1 million and a consortium of gas companies led by the Gas Research Institute would put up $15.2 million to underwrite the project.
A GM spokeswoman declined to say how many vehicles would be involved under the new program.
But Jack Smith, natural gas vehicle market development manager with project participant Southern California Gas Co., said the project would produce 200 to 300 trucks in the 1993 or ’94 model years, with regular production to begin in the ’95 model year.
“It is confirmation that at least part of the automobile industry considers the viability of natural gas vehicles,” Smith said Monday. “For us, it will have a significant impact on our ability to build a market for natural gas vehicles.”
The trucks would be aimed at a fleet market, where they could be refueled from a single source overnight.
The engineering and product development project will devise technology for the trucks and test the market for them. The vehicles will eventually be sold around the country, including Los Angeles.
Unlike the project announced last year, the current project would develop trucks that could be manufactured directly in GM plants. The company plans to use a subcontractor to convert the Sierra pickups into natural gas vehicles.
The trucks will include medium-duty vehicles such as the Topkick and Kodiak, manufactured in GM’s Janesville, Wis., plant. Full-sized trucks are manufactured in GM’s plants in Pontiac, Mich.; Ft. Wayne, Ind., and Oshawa, Canada.
Participating gas companies include Brooklyn Union Gas Co., Columbia Gas System Service Corp., Consolidated Natural Gas Service Co., Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric.
There are about 30,000 natural gas vehicles on the road.