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Ford Unveils Natural Gas Passenger Car

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Joining the rush by Detroit to mass-produce alternative-fuel vehicles, Ford Motor Co. on Tuesday unveiled the first all-natural-gas-powered passenger car to be manufactured by a major auto maker.

The vehicle--a specially engineered version of the Ford Crown Victoria sedan--is being marketed as a 1996 model to fleets for use as taxis, police cruisers and the like.

But consumers may also order the vehicles. They will carry a sticker price of about $27,000, about $6,000 more than the gasoline-powered version.

A Ford rebate of $3,255 and incentives of about $1,500 from the California Energy Commission would sharply reduce the price.

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Thomas J. Artushin, a Ford fleet manager, said at a news conference in Los Angeles that Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford plans to make about 2,000 of the cars this year.

The Ford announcement comes on the heels of a decision by Detroit-based General Motors Corp. to begin making and selling an electric passenger car this fall, the first such vehicle to be produced by a major auto firm in modern times.

Though electric vehicles are cleaner--they are literally emission-free--those powered by natural gas are in many ways considered more practical and economical. Compared with gasoline-powered autos, they produce about 60% fewer smog-creating hydrocarbons.

Unlike the electric vehicle, the natural gas cars have range and refueling capabilities similar to those of a gasoline-powered car. The Crown Victoria has four pressurized tanks, beneath the rear of the car and at the back of the trunk, to carry the equivalent of 10 gallons of gasoline.

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Natural gas costs the equivalent of 75 to 85 cents per gallon of gasoline.

There are already about 7,000 natural gas vehicles on the road in California, said Gregory E. Vlasek, executive director of the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition. Virtually all have been gasoline-powered vehicles converted to run on natural gas.


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