By John Ostapkovich

POTTSTOWN, Pa. (CBS) — A Ford pickup truck powered by compressed natural gas made a brief stop in Pottstown today.

The engine starts like any other but runs like very few, because this F-250 on display at a local Ford dealer was burning compressed natural gas.

John Howell of Westport Innovations, creator of the dual-fuel vehicle, says his firm starts by grabbing trucks right from the Ford assembly line.

“We run them down our line and we add this second fuel system to the vehicle which includes a second fuel tank in the bed of the truck, with a cover that goes over it,” he explains, “(and) a way to fill that fuel tank behind the same door that the fuel filler neck is behind.”

Plus tubing to get the fuel to the special gas prep engine Ford installed.  And Howell (at left in photo) says it’s safe.

“We’ve got redundant safety mechanisms and literally we’ve crash-tested these trucks. The tanks never break.  You could hit this truck with a locomotive and the only thing left is the tank,” he tells KYW Newsradio.

The conversion runs nearly $10,000 extra but, Howell says, since the natural gas equivalant costs about $2 less than a gallon of gasoline, the more you drive, the quicker you break even.

He adds these trucks also run on a clean, domestically produced fuel, and that Pennsylvania is a leader in creating a network of natural gas fueling stations.

Howell and the truck made a brief stop at John Kennedy Ford in Pottstown en route to a Thursday date in Times Square.  They’re making a Detroit-to-New-York trip to prove that natural gas vehicles can, with proper scouting of scarce fueling stations, hit the road.

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