INDIANAPOLIS. Pickups designed to run on both compressed natural gas (CNG) and gasoline are poised to start rolling off the production lines of Ram Truck, General Motors and Ford Motor Co. by the middle of this year as OEMs aim to spur a shift to natural gas in the face of high diesel and gasoline prices.

“CNG is a very mature [propulsion] technology and natural gas is abundant in North America,” explained Fred Diaz, president of Chrysler’s Ram Truck division, here during a press conference at the 2012 National Truck Equipment Assn. (NTEA) convention.

(Video: See all the action from the NTEA Work Truck Show here.)

“We believe it’s a near-term viable fuel option for U.S. fleets and we’ve leveraged our alliance with Fiat to bring this technology to the market,” he said. “Natural gas offers low cost of ownership and is environmentally friendly as well, so we think it will work well in the work truck market.”

Ram’s bi-fuel 2500 HD pickup will be sold in a crew cab configuration with either a long or short bed for $47,000, Diaz noted. The truck is powered by a 5.7L Hemi V8 engine linked to a 6-spd. automatic and is equipped with two CNG tanks providing 18.2 gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE) worth of storage secured in the pickup’s bed to its frame. The truck also comes with an 8-gal. gasoline tank that can be upgraded by Canadian customers to a 35-gal. option.

See photos of Ram Trucks at NTEA

See photos of GM Vehicles at NTEA

Diaz noted orders are being taken for Ram’s bi-fuel pickup models now, with deliveries expected to begin around July and August this year.

GM displayed its new bi-fuel pickup model at the NTEA show as well, available as a Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD or GMC Sierra 2500 HD. Dean Perelli, GM’s chief engineer for full size trucks, noted that the company’s bi-fuel pickups offer 17 GGE worth of CNG tank storage that only occupies 25% of the usable space in the pickup bed coupled to a 36 gallon gasoline tank.

GM did not disclose pricing for its bi-fuel pickup models and Perelli noted that there is a 12% falloff in horsepower when the vehicle shifts from gasoline to CNG power. He added that the order process for these pickups begins in April with deliveries expected by late 2012.

Canada’s Westport Innovations is providing a bi-fuel system for Ford’s F-250 and F-350 SuperDuty models called the “WiNG” system.

John Howell, senior director-marketing for the Westport LD division, noted that the up-charge for equipping either of those Ford SuperDuty models with the “WiNG” bi-fuel system is $9,750, with an extra $1,200 added if buyers want to add a 24 GGE CNG storage tank array versus the standard 18.4 GGE package.

He said Westport LD plans to start slowly ramping up its “WiNG” production facility – located right alongside Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant outside Louisville – from May through July, with full production expected by September.