Talk about covering your bases.
The 2014 Chevrolet Cruze is already available with gasoline and diesel engines, and soon it will add compressed natural gas (CNG) to its resume--albeit as an aftermarket conversion.
IMPCO will offer a bi-fuel conversion for the 1.4-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged Cruze engine. The added CNG tank gives the Cruze a 200-mile natural gas range, but cuts cargo space roughly in half.
The Cruze is the only 2014 passenger sedan with an available, EPA-approved, bi-fuel conversion. Its only real competition is the Honda Civic Natural Gas, which operates on CNG only.
2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas
The Civic has a 1.8-liter, naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine, but has 21 percent less power and 17 percent less torque than a comparable gasoline Civic. Honda says its range is 248 miles.
The Civic Natural Gas carries a base price of $27,095, significantly more than a base gasoline Civic, which starts at $18,955.
A 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Eco has a base price of $19,835. The bi-fuel conversion is expected to add between $5,000 and $6,500 to the price, bringing the converted Cruze fairly close to the Civic in price.
Bi-fuel conversions are common for large pickup trucks and commercial vehicles, but relatively unusual for passenger cars like the Cruze.
That's because commercial operators often supply their own natural gas at centralized fueling stations to which trucks return every night.
Public natural-gas refueling infrastructure, on the other hand, is relatively undeveloped.
Natural-gas vehicle prototypes, Los Angeles, May 2013 - group shot at Playa del Rey storage field
The U.S. has roughly 1,000 natural-gas fueling stations, but only about half are open to the public. That compares to more than 100,000 gasoline stations.
One hope for the natural-gas industry is the development of an inexpensive home fueling station, which could fuel a natural-gas vehicle overnight from a home's natural-gas supply line.
Gas-industry groups have recently prototyped natural-gas vehicles with gasoline engines as range extenders, but the practicality of such a vehicle and a reasonable payback would depend on a home-fueling appliance costing only around $1,000 or $1,500.
Meanwhile, buyers looking for alternative fuels and higher highway efficiency can now look to the 2014 Cruze Diesel, although its starting price of around $25,000 requires some serious calculations by shoppers to determine what the payback may be.