Alternative-fuel vehicles have come of age and a perfect example is the bi-fuel 2015 Chevrolet Impala that can run on either gasoline or compressed natural gas (CNG). If not told in advance, most everyday drivers behind the wheel of a bi-fuel Impala would not know they were driving a CNG-powered vehicle.
Today, the Chevrolet Impala is the industry’s only production full-size sedan that can run on both gasoline and CNG. The car has one engine – a 3.6L V-6 – and two fuel tanks, one for gasoline and one for CNG, allowing the driver to switch between fuels depending on availability. The vehicle runs primarily on CNG and once the fuel tank is depleted, the system automatically switches to gasoline. The CNG tank has the equivalent capacity of 7.8 gallons of gasoline. A full CNG tank should provide enough fuel for about 150 miles of driving before the car seamlessly switches to gasoline power, for an overall range of 500 city miles. This was substantiated as I was able to drive from Los Angeles to San Diego to attend a strategic planning meeting for the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association (AFLA) using just a half tank of CNG.
While driving, I continue to be impressed by the ability to change fuels by simply pushing a button. Once the button is depressed, a light on the instrument panel indicates when CNG is being used. The switch between fuels is imperceptible and the driving characteristics and performance are unaltered.
The 3.6L V-6 bi-fuel engine features hardened valves and hardened valve seats for improved wear resistance and durability with the CNG fuel system. The 3.6L V-6 engine that produces 232 hp and 218 lb.-ft. of torque in CNG mode and 258 hp and 244 lb.-ft. of torque in gasoline mode. The engine delivers power through a 6-speed automatic transmission to the front-wheel-drive powertrain.
The vehicle uses a Type 1 steel CNG tank that’s horizontally positioned in the trunk behind the rear seat back. However, the Impala’s cargo space is compromised by the CNG tank. The dual-fuel model offers about half the trunk space of the conventionally powered model, with 10 cubic feet of volume compared to 18.8 cubic feet for the conventional Impala. Despite the diminished trunk capacity, there is more than sufficient space for company drivers to carry product samples or point-of-sales merchandise.
The CNG fuel system is validated by GM and covered by GM’s three-year/36,000-mile new vehicle limited bumper-to-bumper warranty and five-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty. The vehicle meets emissions certification requirements from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board (CARB).
There are many advantages to powering a vehicle on CNG, such as higher fuel economy and the fact that CNG produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline-powered cars. CNG vehicles typically have 20 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline-powered cars, according to the CARB. A fleet of bi-fuel Impalas could help make a strong contribution to achieving corporate sustainability targets.
If you want the more eco-friendly use of CNG, while giving drivers the peace of mind of being able to easily refuel by switching to gasoline, then the bi-fuel Chevrolet Impala offers fleets the best of both worlds.