First Drive: 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD bi-fuel CNG disappoints compared to propane Ford F-250

Updated May 4, 2015

[imagebrowser id=74]

There’s currently a big push to get us to embrace clean energy by opting for propane- and CNG-powered pickups over diesel and gas.

I’m all for helping the environment and am not afraid to give alternative fuels a look.

So I’ve been eager to test both propane and CNG. I was impressed by the Roush-converted propane-powered Ford F-250 I ran back in March. You’d never know it was propane by the way it performed overall.  I was elated last week when I got my hands on a 2015 Chevy Silverado bi-fuel 2500HD Crew Cab 4×4 with the factory CNG package.

But after spending a few days with it, I don’t think you can sell me on making the CNG switch just yet.

Here’s the skinny: The CNG fuel tank takes up about 1/3 of the bed, it only holds about 12 GGE (gasoline gallon equivalent), and there’s a significant drop in both power and fuel economy compared to running the 6.0L GM V-8 on gas.

It appears my test truck is averaging around 10mpg on CNG driving on the open road, while the V8 on gas is getting close to 14. (I haven’t done the final numbers.)

I paid $2.22 per GGE to fill up the CNG tank at a Clean Energy station 65 miles away in New Orleans while gas was selling for $3.23 per gallon. Yes, 65 miles to go get CNG. There’s not a single fueling station anywhere along the Alabama and Mississippi I-10 corridor. So much for the improved CNG fueling infrastructure.

On the track, the truck is a full two seconds slower accelerating to 60mph than it is on gas. Hook up a trailer and the CNG power difference will be be even more significant. I expected better performance.

CNG has about 20 percent the energy (BTU) per gallon compared to E-10 unleaded, so some power and fuel economy loss is expected.

But when the price of CNG is only 30 percent less than gas, there’s no benefit to running it. After you pay the $8,000 or so price for the option package the ROI would never be realized by trade-in or resale time. Or at least that’s my take.

So far my preliminary evaluation in this instance is:  Propane 1, CNG zero.