Gas prices are on the rise as summer approaches, and demand for the compressed natural gas (CNG) Ford Transit Connect is following suit, according to the U.S. automaker. While CNG vehicles might be less prevalent among fleets, managers have reason to give them a look as conversion kits are relatively inexpensive compared to hybrids and other alternative energy vehicles.

According to Motor Trend’s Zach Gale, fuel prices are a major impetus for the CNG momentum. Gale writes: “The consistent advantage of CNG’s appeal is the low price of fuel (and lower emissions). In the U.S. Department of Energy’s January Clean Cities Alternative Fuel Price Report for January 2011, the price per gallon equivalent of CNG was $1.93, compared to $3.08 for regular gasoline.”

And those fuel cost savings can be achieved with a relatively inexpensive $315 conversion package for Transit Connect models that converts a regular gas-burning engine into a natural gas-burning engine. Ford’s E-Series vans are also CNG-compatible, a move that rivals GM’s rollout of its natural gas-powered Express and Savana models.

Although government tax breaks and other incentives are behind a share of this adoption, Gale cautions that a relative lack of CNG-enabled gas stations present a roadblock to consumers (and fleet managers) looking to retrofit or replace aging fleets with greener models that promise lower operational cost savings.

Fleets, it turns out, are the sweet spot for CNG vehicles. According to Gas 2.0’s Christopher DeMorro, Metro Taxi out of West Haven, Conn., just seeded its fleet with 20 CNG Transit Connects.

“Fleet managers are adding all the reasons up and concluding that it makes sense to switch to CNG now more than ever,” said Rod Phillips, Ford Commercial Business Manager of the New England area, in a press release.

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