Earlier this week we highlighted a small car you might not think of as green since it has a traditional gasoline engine: the 40-mpg Nissan Versa Note. Next up is a vehicle for people who really need to haul things, and it does have an alternative drivetrain but is an unusual choice for another reason. The 2014 Ford F-150 CNG, which runs on a hybrid combination of gasoline and compressed natural gas, is a full-size hauler pickup, but it boasts 30% cleaner emissions than gasoline and is cheaper to fuel up at $1-2/gallon for compressed natural gas. This makes it a popular choice for greening corporate fleets, which can save a lot by upgrading their vehicles to hybrids that are more efficient. AT&T claims that they have reduced their gas consumption by 7.7 million gallons since recently starting to use Ford CNG fleet vehicles.
How does it work? You gas up via separate tanks. The gas tank and cap are where you would find them on a traditional gas vehicle, but instead that steel case in the front of the pickup bed where the tools normally go, there is a separate contained compressed natural gas tank, which has its own cap for filling. Inside the CNG F150 you have two separate gauges for fuel levels, so you can keep an eye on both fuel tanks. That’s it—No more to think about. The truck works out the rest for you.
The build quality is extremely good on this F150, as it is generally with Ford vehicles these days; everything is made of high-quality materials that fit together nicely. It’s the kind of truck you could clean up and take out for a night on the town, believe it or not, but when it’s covered appropriately in workaday dust, the F150 still is all business. The truck bed is lined with a tough gritty liner for hauling whatever you need to, while the cab door makes access to the rear seat easy with the step up. You can fit up to five people in the cab, though the back seat doesn’t have a ton of leg room. It is good for kids, though, or small loads you want contained in the cab.
We got 18 mpg in the CNG F150, which isn’t nearly as impressive as many smaller hybrids. That said, you can tell from driving this that it is a hybrid designed for heavy work or rough roads—even more so than a gas-engined Jeep—with lower emissions and the very practical feature of being able to function entirely on regular gasoline if needed, so there’s no need to worry about fill-ups. Total MSRP for the STX model we drove, which includes the CNG upgrade and Sirius XM radio et cetera, was just over $40,000. The base model is only $27,000, which is quite affordable for such a nice truck. We don’t see this replacing any tiny city cars, but for companies or individuals trying to improve their fuel efficiency and emissions while still tackling big jobs, the F150, the most popular car in America, still gets the job done. In fact, vehicles like these might be the missing link that brings hybrids and alternative drivetrains to the mainstream of middle America, where city cars still don’t quite cut it.
Lead Image via Laura K. Cowan