Last week, Ford announced that it would be resurrecting the discontinued 6.8L V10 gasoline engine for service in the 2012 F-650 commercial truck … a move which, to me, seems baffling.
Keep in mind, we're not talking about consumer vehicles here. Instead, we're talking about medium-duty trucks and chassis cabs (class 4-7) in general, which aren't subject to the usual emissions and CAFE standards we tend to think about when we think about vehicle regulations – and that's precisely where the disconnect is.
On the one hand Ford has straight-up earned a lot of love in recent months by building class-leading new cars and trucks that are objectively better than the competition (see: Ford 3, Chevy 0) and pulling off PR miracles by convincing the general public that the company didn't take any “bailout” money from Uncle Sam and is “pulling its own” introducing new, green models by the ton.
On the other hand you have, well – the new-for-2012 gasoline-powered F-650 truck. Ford is betting that the new truck will find an audience at a price-point that's some $8,000 less than a comparably-equipped diesel F-650. Offsetting that price advantage, though, is the truck's fuel economy, as many large diesel engines are up to 30% more efficient than comparable gas engines, but at a price premium for both the engine, and the fuel.
With gas at $4 and climbing, that projected $8,000 price advantage is sure to disappear pretty quickly – and don't expect government-subsidized E85 to come to the rescue, either: Ford builds plenty of flex-fuel vehicles, but the big V10 isn't one of them.
To be fair, Ford has promised that a CNG version of the V10 is coming, and claims that its all-new six-speed 6R140 automatic transmissionwill allow the V10 to get within 10% of the diesel F-650′s fuel economy.
Keeping that fairness going, though, it should be mentioned that a CNG conversion will wipe out any initial cost advantage the gas engine has over the diesels (and return even fewer mpg). Even a relatively simple E85 conversion (which doesn't require a new, high-pressure fuel tank to be installed) won't be less expensive than opting for the diesel F-650 and running bio-diesel.
Maybe I'm being overly cynical here, though, since the 6.8L V10 is being marketed as “CNG capable” on Ford's website. Maybe this isn't a truck-sized loophole in CARB and the truck really does represent Ford's first, well-intentioned baby-steps into an ultra-low-emission, CNG-powered future …
… either way, expect to see “with prices starting at just -” start to feature prominently on Ford's fleet marketing materials by 3rd Quarter 2011.
The score, in case you're wondering, is:
- +1 CNG option possible
- +1 up to $8,000 cheaper
- -1 fuel economy DOWN by at least 10%
- -1 NOT bio-fuel-capable from the factory