DETROIT -- General Motors Corp. said Tuesday it will build a full-sized pickup truck that runs on gasoline and E85 ethanol fuel.
GM said it will start building ethanol-capable versions of its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra in the first quarter of 2002. Monsanto Co., a St. Louis-based producer of agricultural products, has placed orders for 50 vehicles.
Ethanol is made from starch crops such as corn and produces less pollution than gasoline.
"The push for E85 is part of the company's sustainability plan," GM spokeswoman Denise Sedman said.
Last month, GM issued a report outlining its efforts to improve its environmental performance, including the development of new and more efficient internal combustion engines and the introduction of hybrid vehicles.
Leaders of two environmental groups, however, said they were skeptical of GM's move.
"It looks as if it's a symbolic gesture," said Jason Mark of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "The fuel economy credits they garner is sizable"
"This has nothing to do with sustainability, in fact what they're doing will only increase gas guzzling," said Daniel Becker of the Sierra Club.
Mark and Becker said there are fewer than 200 ethanol filling stations in the United States.
The vehicles will be available to regular customers, but Sedman said the most likely buyers will be government agencies and companies that serve the agriculture industry located in corn growing states where an E85 processing and refueling infrastructure already exists.
GM already produces Silverados and Sierras that can run on both gasoline and compressed natural gas.
To have the ethanol capability added, customers will pay about $250 for extra equipment, which is installed at the factory, Sedman said.
The option, which can be ordered at any Chevrolet or GMC dealer, is available on select 1500 series Chevrolet Silverados and GMC Sierras equipped with the 5300 Vortec engine.
GM now sells several vehicles that are ethanol compatible. They are the smaller Chevrolet S-10 and GMC Sonoma compact pickups, Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, and GMC Yukon and Yukon XL.
Ford Motor Co. builds E85-capable Ranger compact pickup trucks and Taurus passenger cars.
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