Ram cleans up its act with natural gas

Ram CNG cutawayChrysler’s Ram truck division was looking to make its vehicles more fuel-efficient, but it didn’t try to use batteries to accomplish this goal. Instead, Chrysler used compressed natural gas (CNG) to power a version of its Ram 2500 Heavy Duty pickup. This green truck was unveiled at the 2012 Work Truck Show in Indianapolis.

Natural gas is popular with fleet customers because it burns cleaner than gasoline and is often cheaper when bought in large quantities. Since natural gas filling stations are virtually nonexistent, it is not really a viable choice for individual consumers, although Honda does make a CNG-powered Civic.

The modifications to the Ram’s 5.7-liter Hemi V8 were minor; it can still run on gasoline when needed. Changes include: new cylinder heads with redesigned valves and valve seat material, a new fuel rail and injectors for the natural gas, different spark plugs, and a reprogrammed engine management computer. The main difference between natural gas and gasoline is that natural gas has a higher octane rating, requiring a higher compression ratio.

To store CNG, two 130-liter tanks were installed behind the Ram’s cab. They are mounted to the frame and covered by a steel enclosure. The two tanks hold the equivalent of 18.2 gallons of gasoline, giving the Ram a 255-mile range, plus an additional 122 miles with the backup gasoline tank. Drivers can fill up with either CNG or gasoline from the normal filler door.

When starting, the Ram uses a small amount of gasoline (hence the two sets of fuel rails and injectors), then switches over to natural gas. If the natural gas runs out, the engine management computer can seamlessly switch over to gasoline.

The Ram’s powertrain components, including the CNG bits, are covered by a five-year/50,000-mile warranty; the fuel system is covered under the truck’s three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. All CNG conversions will be done at Chrysler’s Saltillo, Mexico plant.

With the Ram 2500 Heavy Duty CNG, Chrysler has at least taken a step toward making big, thirsty trucks more environmentally friendly. This is a relatively unexplored area of the green vehicle market, but one that could be pretty lucrative if more businesses try to take advantage of CNG’s low price. General Motors apparently had the same idea: it recently launched bi-fuel versions of its Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra, which can run on gasoline or natural gas.

Much emphasis is placed on reducing the carbon footprint of the average commuter, but with thousands of vehicles logging countless miles in commercial use every day, it seems like fleet operators could make a big difference by deploying greener cars and trucks.

Product Review

The 2019 Porsche Macan S is a luxurious and quick SUV, but it's no road tripper

The roster of models challenging the Porsche Macan grows annually. The German firm updated its smallest, most affordable SUV with a new engine, more tech features, and subtle design tweaks to keep it looking fresh.
Product Review

Audi built an electric SUV for buyers who want gasoline-free to mean stress-free

We finally got to spend time behind the wheel of the electric 2019 Audi E-Tron bustling cities and arid desert of the United Arab Emirates to see how it compares with Jaguar and Tesla's competitors.

This list of PlayStation 4 exclusives puts its competitors to shame

The PlayStation 4's game library and incredible selection of exclusive games could make anyone with an Xbox One or Nintendo Switch think twice. Here's our list of the latest and greatest PS4 exclusives.

The Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake is the sexiest wagon ever

Aston Martin has revealed new photos of the limited-production Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake. The Vanquish Zagato line now includes the Shooting Brake, Coupe, Volante, and Speedster, each with bespoke styling.

Nissan and Italdesign’s GT-R50 concept will become a $1.1 million reality

The Nissan GT-R50 is a customized sports car built to celebrate the 50th anniversaries of both the GT-R and design firm Italdesign. Underneath the sleek bodywork sits a 710-horsepower engine fortified with race car components.

Ford’s new Shelby GT500 Mustang will have 3D-printed brake parts

Ford's new $45 million Advanced Manufacturing Center will focus on emerging technologies, including 3D printing. One of the staff's first jobs is to print parts for the 700-horsepower Shelby GT500 Mustang.

Car-branded phones need to make a U-turn if they ever want to impress

Your car and your smartphone are becoming one, yet smartphones branded or co-created by car companies are a problem. We look at the history, some examples of the best and worst, then share hopes for the future.

World’s fastest electric race car to display at Petersen Museum

The Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak race car smashed the all-time record at the hill climb for which it was named. The all-electric VW record-holder will be on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles until February 1, 2019.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

This freewheeling Army truck-turned-tiny home is a labor of love

Most tiny homes are models of efficiency but one British metal worker has redefined the idea, converting an old Army truck into a mobile tiny home that comes with a bed, a sofa, a shower, and a beer garden.

Take a friend stargazing at 202 mph in the 2019 McLaren 720S Spider

McLaren has introduced the 2019 720S Spider. As its name implies, it's a convertible variant of the 720S coupe. The company promises the Spider retains the coupe's dynamism and agility thanks in part to the widespread use of carbon fiber.

Gateway’s born-again Ford Bronco boasts classic style, 2018 muscle car power

Illinois-based Gateway Bronco has received a license from Ford to make brand-new examples of the first-generation Bronco. Every build starts with a Ford VIN and a donor vehicle, but Gateway upgrades every part of the car.

Bloodhound’s plan to build a 1,000-mph car has run out of gas

The Bloodhound supersonic car (SSC) project has officially shut down. The upside is you can now buy a 135,000-horsepower car powered by a jet engine and a cluster of rockets for $319,000.

2019 Ford Ranger saves fuel without sacrificing towing capacity

The 2019 Ford Ranger marks Ford's long-awaited return to the midsize truck segment, which has seen a resurgence lately. But will being late to the party make Ford's job more difficult?