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Did Ford Motor Company (F) Just Put Natural Gas Into Overdrive?

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The potential for natural gas vehicles has long been simmering just below the surface. Commercial and industrial companies are quickly adopting the alternative fuel source, with The Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE:PG), for example, announcing last month that it would be converting 20% of its for-hire fleet to nat gas over the next two years.

While Clean Energy Fuels Corp (NASDAQ:CLNE) has been doing its part by building out a network of refueling stations that largely service the trucking market , the whole industry may have been pushed into overdrive by Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) announcing it would introduce a natural gas version of its highly popular F-150 pickup truck for 2014.

Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F)The F-150 is the industry’s most popular vehicle (I’ve got one) and sales surged 24% in June, its best showing since 2006, as it sold more than 235,000 trucks. It marks nearly two straight years’ worth of consecutive monthly increases in sales. Last year, it sold 645,000 F-series pickups, better than the combined 575,000 sales of General Motors Company (NYSE:GM)‘ Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks.

AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) notes it’s halfway to reaching its goal of having 15,000 alt-fuel vehicles on the road by 2018 and recently purchased 650 F-350 heavy-duty trucks, which it says helped it avoid purchasing 7.7 million gallons of gasoline over the past five years. Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) itself has sold some 15,000 CNG/LPG vehicles this year alone, up 25% from 2012.

So introducing a natural gas version of the light-duty truck has the potential to move the industry out of the breakdown lane, though I’m not sure we’re ready to hit the passing lane just yet.

Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) will equip the F-150s with factory-installed valves, pistons, and rings capable of handling natural gas and gasoline as a $315 option, but purchasers will still be responsible for retrofitting through factory-approved installers new fuel tanks, lines, and injectors that will run another $7,500 to $9,500.

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