By Jeff Gilbert, CBS Detroit

WASHINGTON, DC — (WWJ) General Motors says the 2015 Chevy Impala will have a “bi-fuel” version that runs on both natural gas and gasoline.

Natural gas has long been seen as a solid alternative fuel. But it’s not nearly as available as gasoline.

“It’s very, very affordable, less than two dollars a gallon,” says Kelly Blue Book analyst Alec Gutierrez. “It get’s you HOV access in states like California. But, the big, big hurdle is the infrastructure isn’t quite available yet.”

Honda has a Civic available that runs on natural gas only.  In most cases, consumers are available to fuel up at home.  But, finding natural gas on the road is a different issue.

Chevy says the bi-fuel Impala would switch seamlessly between natural gas and gasoline. That’s something that Gutierrez says is important for consumer acceptance of the technology.

“If you happen to be in a location where there isn’t a natural gas pump isn’t handy, you could always revert back to standard gasoline until you’re able to find a CNG pump”

Cost could be an issue. General Motor is not saying what the sticker price will be when the bi-fuel Impala comes out next year. 

GM is also expected to announce other details about the vehicle closer to it’s launch, including options for refueling with natural gas.

There have been aftermarket systems that allow consumers to convert vehicles to operate on both natural gas and gasoline.  Those systems have been particularly popular with pickup truck owners.  But they also could potentially impact a customer’s warranty.

The Impala is the first vehicle to offer a manufacturer produced bi-fuel system.

The announcement came in Washington, as GM CEO Dan Akerson spoke to a meeting looking at the 40th anniversary of the OPEC Oil Embargo.   The GM CEO noting that his company, and other automakers, are looking at various technologies as alternatives to gasoline.

“We know that U.S. energy security won’t come from a one-off moonshot,” Akerson said. “It will flow from our systematic investment in technology and innovation… our drive to get more from existing energy sources and renewables… our commitment to conservation… and it will be assured by fully and safely exploiting our shale gas reserves.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert

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