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2013 RAM 2500 CNG Pickup Review By Larry Nutson +VIDEO

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2013 RAM 2500 CNG Powered

SEE ALSO: Chrysler Steps Back Ten Years to Jump Into the Future with CNG-Powered Pick Up +VIDEO

Compressed Natural Gas RAM 2500
The only OEM-built CNG pickup in North America

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

I don’t consider myself a trucker. Therefore, I don’t drive and review pickups and usually turn them down when offered. I initially declined to drive a new 2013 Ram, even though it has been receiving rave reviews, when it was offered as a substitute for a car that was scheduled for me to drive but was not done being repaired after an accident. Although, I wondered if I should find out for myself why the Ram is Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year, is one of the three finalists for North American Truck/Utility of the Year, was just picked by Mark Phelan of the Detroit Free Press as their Truck of the Year, and was just named AOL Autos Truck of the Year.

What changed my mind was that this Ram that could come my way ran on CNG…Compressed Natural Gas. So I would have the chance to not only drive the Ram but get some CNG experience. The 2012/2013 Ram 2500 CNG is the only OEM-built compressed natural gas-powered pickup truck in North America.

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The Ram 2500 Heavy Duty CNG pickup was initially designed for fleet and commercial customers and offers cost and emissions benefits. The Ram 2500 Heavy Duty can run on either compressed natural gas (CNG) or gasoline. It starts up using gasoline, switches immediately to CNG, and, if CNG is exhausted, switches back again to gasoline — all without any need for driver input. Natural gas is usually domestically sourced in the United States and Canada, reducing dependence on foreign oil. CNG demonstrates a reduction of 70 to 90 percent of smog-producing pollutants and significantly reduces greenhouse gas emission.

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The Ram HD CNG is powered by the 5.7-liter HEMI® V-8 and features both compressed gas storage tanks and a choice of 8- or 35-gallon gasoline fuel tanks. Redesigned cylinder heads with specifically designed CNG compatible valves and valve-seat materials allow the engine to burn both fuels. It also gets a second, CNG-specific fuel rail and set of injectors. New spark plugs improve combustion and durability, and a new powertrain control module allows the HEMI to seamlessly operate on either of the two fuel sources.

Last October the Chrysler Group LLC announced that 13 Ram Truck dealers landed contracts with 19 states to supply their fleets with the new Ram 2500 Heavy Duty CNG pickup truck. Later that month production began and simultaneously Chrysler announced that the Ram HD CNG would be available to retail customers also.

CNG-only range is 301 miles highway, while the backup supply of gasoline extends the range to 966 total miles. Now that’s a lot of work-truck miles on one fueling.

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The Ram 2500 Heavy Duty CNG’s two ultra-strong 4.6 cu.-ft. (130-liter) CNG tanks are located in the forward portion of the Ram’s 8-foot pickup bed. Both tanks are mounted to the frame and covered by a painted 50 ksi high-strength steel cover. The CNG filler connection is located next to the gasoline fuel neck, accessed through the Ram’s fuel filler door.

The CNG tanks provide a gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE) of 18.2 gallons.

GGEs are calculated as having the same energy equivalent as one gallon of gasoline. CNG sold at filling stations in the U.S. is priced in dollars per GGE. A gasoline gallon equivalent of CNG is approximately 14.5 liters at 3600 psi.

At current prices, which are generally $1.25 less than the gallon equivalent of gasoline, CNG promises significant cost savings over the life of the truck

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The Ram 2500 CNG retains its heavy-duty capability: competent towing, payload hauling and outstanding acceleration for highway merging and passing. Ram 2500 CNG offers 1,580 lbs. of payload, 4ft-8in usable bed length and 7,650 lbs. of towing capability.

The Ram 2500 is delivered ready-to-tow and standard equipment includes the integrated 4- and 7-pin connectors along with a Class IV hitch receiver. The Ram CNG also comes with a trailer brake controller with customer-programmable electric or electric-over-hydraulic trailer brake options.

The Ram CNG’s brake system reflects distinctive advantages, with huge, oversize 14-inch rotors and calipers to match. Front GAWR is rated up to 5,200 lbs. — ideal for northern climates requiring snow plow attachments.

Pricing starts at $46,505, including $995 destination charge.

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Natural gas is found abundantly in North America and is a common fuel source for large vehicle fleets.

CNG comes primarily from underground sources in the U.S. and Canada. It is plentiful and offers lower tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline or diesel fuel. In fact, CNG vehicles emit 20 percent less CO2 than gasoline vehicles – and benefit the environment not only by lowering tailpipe emissions, but also generating fewer greenhouse gasses in fuel production, as well. Also, dedicated NGVs produce, on average, 70 percent less carbon monoxide, 87 percent less non-methane organic gas and 87 percent less NOx than traditional gasoline powered vehicles.

There are about 150,000 Natural Gas Vehicles (NGVs) on U.S. roads and more than 13 million worldwide. We’ll be seeing more of them in our future.

© Larry Nutson