Fiat looks to natural gas, not too fond of hybrids or EVs

2011 Fiat 500 Sport (North American model)

In a move to compete with improving fuel-efficiency technologies such as found in electric and hybrid vehicles, Fiat is bringing natural gas engines over to America in order to compete on a lower cost basis.

“Natural gas is very suitable for the U.S.,” Constantinos Vafidis, who oversees transmission and hybrid development at Fiat’s research center in Turin, Italy, said in an interview. “Especially for public services and goods transportation, where vehicles are refueled from a central base.” Fiat has been a global leader in natural gas technology.

The additional cost for a natural gas engine as opposed to a hybrid or EV is about $3,000 versus $8,000; a substantial difference.

Currently there are 1,300 methane refueling stations in the US, and the industry is putting emphasis on that right now.

Sergio Marchionne has said that his intention is to focus heavily on trucks, using the Ram brand to produce Fiat based trucks. “Fiat’s technological leadership in compressed natural gas in Europe is a key asset for the U.S. natural gas-vehicle market,”

– By: Stephen Calogera

Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required)