By on May 23, 2012

Since 1998 Honda has been quietly producing one of the cleanest vehicles in America. In 2001 the EPA called its engine “the cleanest burning internal combustion engine in the world.” No, it’s not a hybrid, it’s Honda’s Civic Natural Gas (formerly known as the Civic GX). Until now, the Civic Natural Gas has only been available for retail sale in a handful of states like California and New York. For 2012, Honda expanded sales to 37 states and lent us one for a week.

As Honda dropped off the CNG Civic one bright Tuesday morning, I realized I had absolutely no idea what I had gotten myself into. Like most of the motoring public, I didn’t know much about CNG and it was only when the compact sedan arrived that I asked: “where do I fill this thing up?” Once I found a CNG station, I realized I had no idea how to fill it up either. If you’re dying to know, check out our video below.

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Exterior

The all-new 9th generation exterior is instantly recognizable as a Civic. While there are virtually no carryover parts from 2011, the changes are subtle enough to be a refresh. Unlike the Civic Hybrid, which gains a few blue-tinted trim bits and some LED brake lights to set it apart from the rabble, the only way to identify the Civic Natural Gas is by the legally required blue diamond CNG logo on the trunk lid. (The sticker is supposed to help emergency responders know that high-pressure gas lurks within.) Limited production means limited options, and you can get your Civic Natural gas in any color you want so long as its light grey, dark grey, periwinkle or white.

Interior

The Civic Natural Gas started out  in 1998 as a cleaner alternative for the meter maids parking enforcement specialists in Los Angeles. Since then, the majority of gaseous sales have gone to fleet customers looking for lower operating costs, a green image and a vehicle that uses the same fueling infrastructure as their vans and buses. Honda’s focus on fleet customers (and their needs) is obvious by the lack of options found on Honda’s retail-focused models. The interior is only available in one color scheme, with cloth seats and only one option: Honda’s touchscreen nav system. You won’t find leather seats, automatic climate control, heated seats, or an up-level speaker package at any price.

 

Drivetrain

Under the hood beats the biggest change: a re-worked 1.8L engine. This is one of the few engines in the world built specifically for CNG. Unlike conversion kits that blow gas into the air intake, the Civic uses a CNG  multi-port injection system. To compensate for the lower energy density of CNG, the compression ratio is increased from 10.6 to 12.7. Despite this, power drops from 140HP to 110HP while torque goes from 128lb-ft to 106lb-ft. Honda toyed with a CVT in the past, but for 2012, the 5-speed automatic from the regular Civic makes a cameo. I’m probably the only car guy to wish the CVT from the hybrid was under the hood as it would have improved the fuel economy

According to the EPA, this engine produces 70-90% lower smog forming emissions, 20-30% lower CO2 and virtually no evaporative emissions when compared to a regular Civic. It’s smog numbers and CO2 numbers are lower than VW’s most efficient clean diesel and it delivers considerably lower NOx and particulate emissions when compared to clean diesels. A side benefit of CNG engines is improved spark plug and oil life as there are fewer impurities to foul either one.

 

Cargo

Sound too good to be true? There are a few problems. First off, natural gas must be stored in a pressure cylinder. By their design, these cylinders are large, need to be placed somewhere safe, and can’t be shaped like your typical gas tank. This means the cylinder is in the trunk and cargo space gets cut in half from 12.5 cubic feet to 6.1. As you can see below, it is still possible to fit two carry-on sized roller bags and some small hand luggage in the trunk, but larger items like large strollers might not fit.

 

About CNG

According to the EPA, CNG is a plentiful and as a result, 87% of the natural gas consumed in the United States in 2011 was produced domestically. The rest came from Canada and Mexico. If you are simply seeking to reduce this country’s dependence on foreign energy without changing your lifestyle, CNG is one of your better options. While there are about 120,000 CNG powered vehicles in the United States, most of them are buses. You want something other than a cargo or people hauler, the Civic is the only factory built CNG vehicle around.

Since virtually all natural gas consumed in America comes from underground deposits created by ancient decaying matter, it’s not a renewable resource in its current form. Unlike gasoline, diesel and liquid propane, natural gas isn’t sold by the gallon. Instead, it is served up by the Gasoline Gallon Equivalent or GGE. At 3,600psi this equates to 0.51 cubic feet of gas. In California we averaged $2.19 per GGE while gasoline was around $4.27 a gallon.

 

Finding CNG can be tricky as there are only 1,000 stations in the US, and half of them are closed to the public. Approximately 250 public stations are available in California with New York and Utah coming in second and third at 101 and 84 respectively. Operating your CNG Civic in a state like Texas could be tricky, with both long driving distances and only 36 stations to fill up at. Most stations are located near airports and industrial areas, so if your commute takes you near these locations it’s an easy sell. While there are home refueling stations available, Honda does not recommend them as they may not sufficiently dry the gas and allow moisture to build up in the tank. The home unit costs $4,900 without installation and is only good for 3,000 GGE of CNG. Although not recommended, it is much cheaper to fill up at home, with an estimated cost per GGE of $1.43 in California. While the CNG station nearest to my home is 20 miles away, there are several on the way to my office and one only 0.2 miles from my office, making commuter-car use a real option for me.

 

Infotainment

Honda’s Civic Natural Gas carries a mid-range feature set despite its price tag. This means that although a nav system is available (the only option on the CNG), upgraded speakers are not. The sound quality is mediocre with dull highs and muddy lows. Remember, this is a fleet-oriented vehicle. The only real reason to get the factory nav system is that it is preloaded with a CNG station database which can be handy if you don’t have a smartphone. If you have a smartphone, stick with the base radio and get a CNG finder app.

 

Drive

Out on the road the Civic Natural Gas drives just like a regular Civic, with less power. From a standstill, 60 arrives in 10.9 seconds, about 2 seconds slower than a regular Civic, but only 3/4 of a second behind the hybrid. When it comes to road holding, the CNG performs essentially the same as a regular Civic LX sedan, since Honda chose not to use low rolling resistance rubber on the CNG like they did on the hybrid.

Savings

You should know that essentially all the tax credits for CNG vehicles have evaporated. This means your CNG Civic is a whopping $6,710 more than a comparably equipped Civic LX and even $2,105 more than a Civic Hybrid. Based on current fuel costs in northern California, it would take 5.5 years for the CNG to break even with the Hybrid and 7.5 with the Civic LX. The Civic Natural Gas has a trump card to play in California: Solo carpool usage. If you live on the left coast as I do, and “enjoy” a “healthy” commute, the CNG may just be the best investment you could make in your family. On my daily commute, being able to drive in the carpool lane saved me 25-35 minutes of commute time per day. That adds up to 125 hours less commuting a year, or 5.2 days less time in a car on my commute. The scarcity of CNG filling stations will continue to ensure Civic Natural Gas sales remain low. However, for those that live near CNG infrastructure, the Civic Natural gas makes an interesting proposition. While it will take nearly a decade to justify the cost of buying one, in states like California where you can use the HOV lane, it presents quite a different reason to buy one. It also makes a compelling case against EVs, as America is the land of coal and gas power plants, the CO2 emissions from the CNG Civic are similar or lower than the Leaf depending on the state you live in.

 

Honda provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 4.2 Seconds

0-60: 10.9 Seconds

Average fuel economy: 35.2MPG over 820 Miles

 

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65 Comments on “Review: 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas...”


  • avatar
    willamettejd

    For anyone in a billable-hours based job, such as lawyers and accountants, buying one of these in the LA area makes a whole lot of sense. The average attorney in LA bills around $325/hour x 125 hours a year of less commuting = over $40,000 extra potential income. Obviously, some of this will be used up on sleeping later, not working, etc., but if you can get into a HOV lane for a $6,000 or so, it’s worth it for a lot of folks.

    And, speaking as an attorney, there is ABSOLUTELY no need to have a fancy car to “impress” clients. I don’t know more than 1-2 attorneys who ever drive their clients around – a truly stupid idea when billing at $325/hour. Being able to show off a NG vehicle is way more impressive than showing off a cookie cutter Lexus.

  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    I don’t understand the home station. It won’t pump enough gas to fill a tank overnight. It doesn’t seem to have its own tank either. You need to hook it up to the car and “charge” it like an electric, and it’s not even as fast as those. So you get your “range anxiety”. Speaking technologically there doesn’t seem to be any reason for it to suck this bad. How do they make an inadequately sized compressor with no tank cost $4900?

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      It’s my understanding that there are are safety and/or insurance restrictions against having high-pressure tanks of flammable gas inside the garage plus the high-pressure tanks are the major extra cost in making a car run on compressed natural gas.

      The home compressor may have made more sense with some government subsidy like a tax credit. Even worse, the home compressors can’t be rebuilt when they wear out. I have read that the industrial strength compressors used to refuel CNG fueled forklifts are more robust plus they can be rebuilt for many more years of use.

    • 0 avatar
      protomech

      I suppose by building in quantities of hundreds instead of hundreds of thousands.

  • avatar
    statikboy

    So Alex, if the tanks are in the trunk, what did they do with the space under the seats?

  • avatar
    GS650G

    CNG is the future of cars in the US. Other countries already use Propane and CNG it’s just the infrastructure we need to create.
    If anything deserves tax credits, public spending, or other tricks it’s this technology. But it’s not green enough and doesn’t use solar panels or windmills to charge up.
    Imagine a day when you could refill at home.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Natural gas was green right up until environmentalists found out it was real, plentiful, and cheap. People should learn something vital from that.

      • 0 avatar
        rentonben

        I get the distinct feeling that the Green movement is sometimes more interested in Guilt/Punishments/Indulgences than helping the environment.

      • 0 avatar
        icemilkcoffee

        Let’s not be silly here. We all know what the issue is- fracking.

      • 0 avatar
        chaparral

        Nah, gas’s still pretty good in the “green” stakes.

        It’s better than oil and miles better than coal for CO2 emissions. Not emitting it at all would be better, but substituting gas for coal is definitely beneficial.

        We just don’t know about some of the other problems associated with gas production: whether it causes earthquakes, whether we can avoid groundwater pollution by minor changes to the extraction process, how long these wells will produce. Having said that, I would much rather have a gas well next door than an open-pit coal mine.

        Cheap energy hurts American manufacturing. First, it makes shipping cheaper, allowing minor cost improvements from offshoring to affect decisons. Second, it drops energy-efficiency down the list of priorities for design for the American market – causing American products to be less competitive overseas and allowing foreign manufacturers to have reduced energy consumption (price sensitivity in a business sense) as a competitive advantage.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        @icemilkcoffee

        Ya, fracking environmentalist hippies. They say they want to save the planet, but all they do is smoke pot, smell bad, and refuse to get jobs. God I hate hippies.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        There is a small, and VERY vocal group of environmentalists who won’t be happy until we are living in hand woven cotton tents and living off the land in harmony with nature and the beasts eating soybeans and berries. Even then, they will then conclude that we as a species that we produce far to much CO2 and methane. They will weave up hemp bags, seal it with beeswax (only after asking for forgiveness from the bees for using their natural wax) and then place the bags over everyones heads. They will then tie off the bags using hemp rope around the necks, until the human race dies in a mass, save the planet suicide. Our bodies returning to mother earth to feed a new generation of sensitive plants and animals.

        I hate eco-weenie hippies.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        “People should learn something vital from that.”

        Like, that environmentalists are less honest than the fossil fuel industry?

    • 0 avatar
      GS650G

      Nancy Pelosi called NG a renewable energy source and she’s a genius so it must be so. Anything that presents as an alternative to electric cars is deemed unworthy, because only green energy is acceptable.

    • 0 avatar
      Crosley

      “Natural gas was green right up until environmentalists found out it was real, plentiful, and cheap. People should learn something vital from that.”

      Bingo. Also, “Big Oil” might make money on it, so it can’t be good.

      Natural gas powered vehicles are about as close to a silver bullet for all of our energy problems that I’ve ever seen, and the technology is already here.

      Americans can actually drive the cars they want to drive (not golf carts), it likely burns cleaner than the power plant that makes the electricity for an electric car, it takes us off our addiction to foreign oil, it’s plentiful and ridiculously cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Claw

      icemilkcoffee hit the nail on the head. then chaparral drilled that nail down even further.

      I’m all for getting weaned off petroleum, but if we gotta “frack” to get the gas… forget it.

      this “if it’s profitable, it ain’t green” take is as cynical as it gets.

  • avatar
    kkt

    So what’s its range on a tank?

  • avatar
    Autobraz

    In Brazil, many cars are gasoline-only out of the factory but converted by shops to run on Natural Gas. This makes the car a hybrid and among the many benefits is super extended range since you can use both the gasoline tank and the CNG tank to run your car. You do lose a lot of trunk space though…

    Fiat and GM once produced (don’t know if they still do) cars that came “converted” from the factory, so there was no impact on warranty.

  • avatar
    Marko

    Because of the loss of cargo space, Honda should build a Stream CNG and sell it in the US (the Stream, as I understand, is essentially a tall Civic wagon – it could either be imported from Japan or built alongside the Civic in North America).

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    I know the CNG tank is expensive, but the $6700 surcharge seems to be way excessive. Other than that I think this is a good alternative. Here in CA, there are just enough CNG stations that it is possible to live with one of these vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Have you priced out what an after market conversion costs? $10,000 to $13,000 per unit, the $6,700 cost is about a 50% premium over DIY.

      • 0 avatar
        icemilkcoffee

        Well- you’d think a factory mass-produced product would be a whole lot cheaper than an aftermarket conversion. There is no exotic components in a CNG car. It’s still a good ole fashion internal combustion engine.

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      The pressure tank it the real expensive part. This is not LPG (propane) steel BBQ tank, but spiral wound kevlar rated for thousands of pounds of pressure. There used to be a $5000 tax credit, which made it real attractive for us when we bought our last GX, but the resale value was so high two years later, we sold it at a profit, plus two years of “free” use.

  • avatar
    MeaCulpa

    Is VW, Merc or Volvo offering any Natural/Bio gas cars in the US? In Europe you can get a Passat that runs on both gasoline and gas, seems like a decent car for the US market with 150 horses from the 1.4 liter engine.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Looking at where the tank is, this still looks like an aftermarket conversion. And an expensive one at that – the $6,700 premium seems way too steep. It’s pity as CNG has great potential for energy independence and cleaner air while still leveraging existing ICE technology.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    A really depressing review. I was very interested in this car until I read how it is equipped and saw its (when top up) Pontiac Solstice grade trunk. I get they have to put the tank somewhere but this renders the Civic almost useless for the yeoman duty I would use it for like grocery shopping. I guess I could throw the groceries on top of the kids in the backseat, but I guess I’d rather have a trunk. And a remotely acceptable stereo.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I’d love to drive one of these and fill it at home, but the inability to fill it elsewhere makes the Leaf look mainstream.

    At least the Leaf only has to get to a standard electrical plug, which is possible even if you have to beg for help.

  • avatar
    kmoney

    Ford was making factory CNG Crown Vics up until ’04. Same multi-port style fuel injection setup and using flattop Cobra 4v pistons to kick up the compression ratio. They were popular with the cab companies round here back in the day, but can be bought now for 5-6 thousand in good condition. Mileage in the mid 20s, but nice to have the fullsize w/v8.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    CNG needs a big advance in low pressure storage to truly compete with liquid petroeum fuels. It all comes down to matching the high energy density of liquid hydrocarbon fuels. Hydrogen fuel cell power has the same problem to a higher degree due to the very low density of hydrogen gas.
    The cureent solution of using very high pressure tanks is not economically attractive compared to storing gasloine in an atmospheric pressure tank.
    Both CNG and fuel cell vechicles will take off once a way to store either natual gas or hydrogen at relatively low pressures is invented.
    Until then, both technologies will be relegted to fleets and super early adopters looking to get into those coveted HOV lanes.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      That’s about it. The Honda Clarity runs/ran on hydrogen, but it faces an even smaller infrastructure than CNG.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I came to the conclusion that a CNG conversion used for 12k mi/yr couldn’t ever pay for the cost of high pressure tanks and home compressor even if the natural gas was free. Too much fixed cost. For a fleet vehicle driven more miles with access to a refueling station, CNG might make sense. The tanks of a CNG vehicle can be refilled in minutes vs. hours to recharge batteries.

      Rather than put money into expensive tanks on the average car, I’d look at converting natural gas and/or coal into some liquid fuel, probably methanol, and making cars that can run on either methanol or gasoline.

    • 0 avatar
      John Langley

      Felix, advances in Cng are being made almost daily.An article I read just monday was about BNSF railway changing over to natural gas powered locomotives. Already many of the large seagoing vessels are using natural gas. Of course it is the liquid form, but the days will be coming soon when we will be using liquified natural gas. Thus the reason for us leasing our car. My wife and I leased a 2012 Honda Civic last June. I can tell you we have nothing but great things to say about the CNG Honda.Of course living here in Oklahoma the cost of CNG was .98 per gallon last week, so the amount of time it will take to make up for the cost differential in purchasing a gasoline unit will be much less. If I were to ever consider going back into auto sales, I would specialize in CNG vehicles.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    This paper on the safety of high-pressure fuel tanks in modern vehicles is worth a read if you are considering a CNG-powered car:

    http://www.mvfri.org/Contracts/Final%20Reports/CNGandH2VehicleFuelTankPaper.pdf

    Scroll down to Page 12 to see what this car looks like when the fuel tank explodes. Fortunately in the case pictured, the incident happened when the car was parked in an empty lot; an arsonist set fire to several vehicles (right here in Seattle, in 2007). Now, imagine that your garage catches on fire with this car parked inside, and your children are sleeping in the bedroom over the garage.

    For the record, I’d have no problem owning one of these if I could afford it (although driving very far outside of any urban areas that have refueling stations could be problematic). I just wouldn’t park it inside my house.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Looks like a suicide bomber’s vehicle.

      The explosive qualities of CNG are impressive, even worse than the rapid burning of a lithium ion battery or even a liquid fuel like gasoline, mainly due to the gas expansion.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    So you won’t park your car full of gasoline in your house either? They go pop too.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Gasoline isn’t stored at 3600 psi. Even gasoline’s vapors start out at atmospheric pressure, and therefore have an explosive disadvantage over CNG.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        How about a hot water tank?

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        @APaGttH:

        A hot water tank explosion (such as in your home) is pretty benign, because:
        a) water doesn’t burn,
        b) water is incompressible, and so releasing its pressure doesn’t release much energy.
        They are also pretty rare, because hot water tanks are fitted with T&P (temperature and pressure) safety valves, and rusty tanks tend to leak out slowly as evidenced by the stream of water under them.

        However, if you’re referring to a boiler, that’s a different story because so much pressure energy is stored as highly compressible gaseous steam. Today’s boiler safety codes are written in the blood of those who perished in boiler explosions beginning in the 1800s. Still, a boiler explosion is ‘only’ spewing hot steam and water rather than large volumes of expanding flammable natural gas.

      • 0 avatar
        segfault

        APaGttH,
        Hot water isn’t flammable, and the pressure relief valve opens far before 3600 psi. With an electric heater, there is an over-temperature breaker that will shut off the elements if the thermostat gets stuck in the “on” position.

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    A friend of mine who was a Honda (now Acura) mechanic says each Honda dealership has at least one person trained on how to work with CNG Civics. Also that the cost of the special injector is pretty high.

  • avatar
    nikita

    Alex, you complained about not having the CVT. Having owned both I can tell you the conventional automatic is better. Honda’s CVT was a disaster. That is why we sold it before the Hondacare extended warranty was up. Three rebuilds in less than 60,000 miles.

  • avatar
    shaker

    The high-pressure CNG tanks have a service life, and must be replaced at considerable cost at EOL.

    Though the latest tanks have a 25-year service life, there are quite a few (in commercial fleets) that were constructed to older standards, and are reaching EOL:

    http://www.government-fleet.com/Article/Print/Story/2010/05/What-Happens-When-Your-CNG-Tanks-Expire.aspx

    There are inspection requirements for these tanks, but no real enforcement, or penalties (other than the liability of the owner if an out-of-date tank causes a catastrophe).

    If a car with a CNG tank is in an accident, it’s up to the owner to have the tank inspected for damage by a qualified person (body shop personnel need not apply).

    There’s little evidence that CNG tanks become immediately unsafe after their expiration date, but it’s worth consideration because a failure could cause a lot of damage – instantly.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    The CNG stuff looks super interesting & I never considered it before. Unfortunately it appears as a novelty when in the Chicago Area (Not in chicago — in the Chicago area!) cngprices.com shows only 4 stations.

    I believe there are more electric vehicle charging spotts (public+pay) in this little city of 100k people than there are CNG in all of the Chicago area.

    Sad.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Like the Volt, Leaf, Karma, and hell, even the Mitsubishi i, this is a very specialized car that doesn’t work for a majority of Americans. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a great choice for that limited segment of people. Even without the benefit of carpool lanes, that recouping the extra cost is a realistic proposition (the articles states it could be done in 5.5 years, about the same amount of time Americans keep their new cars). In those five or six years, I suspect there will be more natural gas stations opening, though probably not a lot more unless other OEMs start offering NGVs. I’ve always liked choice, and envy/resent both Europe and Asia for having so much more of it when it comes to automotive choices. Therefore I applaud Honda for not only offering an NGV that isn’t a bus, but for continuing to update it over the years (though I’m no fan of the latest generation Civic…DLO fail). Thanks for the thorough review, as always!

    • 0 avatar
      John Langley

      Being a proud owner of a CNG Honda Civic, I will promise you running 85-90 mph is no problem. Just ask the patrolman who wrote me the speeding ticket!
      Actually here in Oklahoma 76 CNG stations will be located around the state by the end of 2013 and my wife and I have no problem finding a refueling station and last week the price at the pump was .99 per gallon. I would, if you are thinking about purchasing a CNG vehicle, consider leasing it. The only reason for that is due to the fact so many good changes in the vehicles are comming in the next 5 years and you would not want to be stuck with old technology! Especially as fast as this technology is moving and the residuals are so high on the CNG vehicles. Oh by the way, our state is changing all of it’s vehicle fleet over to CNG as the fleet ages.

  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    Natural gas was green right up until environmentalists found out it was real, plentiful, and cheap. People should learn something vital from that.

    Like, that environmentalists are less honest than the fossil fuel industry?

    No, no, no you have it all wrong. CNG is cheap, plentiful and viable BUT it results in lower hp and torque. This just proves that deep down inside environmentalists are enthusiasts!

    • 0 avatar
      John Langley

      1998redwagon, I got to drive a converted Dodge Cummins Diesel last week. This particular conversion uses both CBG and Diesel fuel in the mix. It seems that the molicules in diesel and natural gas marry up well, and using an 85/15 mixture 85% CNG and 15% Diesel creates an enormious amount of power and greater fuel economy. I smoked the tires on a 1 ton dually! Of course that blew the greater fuel economy out the window, but it sure was fun!

  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    Natural gas was green right up until environmentalists found out it was real, plentiful, and cheap. People should learn something vital from that.

    Like, that environmentalists are less honest than the fossil fuel industry?

    No, no, no you have it all wrong. CNG is cheap, plentiful and viable BUT it results in lower hp and torque. This just proves that deep down inside environmentalists are enthusiasts!

    Seriously, I would have appreciated a link to a website that listed CNG stations across the USA and Canada.

  • avatar
    28-cars-later

    Does a kit or something exist in order to convert a Panther to this? Think about it, plenty of trunk space for CNG tanks, cheap to acquire/own/repair, and $2.19 a GGE? Sounds like a home run.

  • avatar
    Toshi

    Alex closes his writeup with the line, “It also makes a compelling case against EVs, as America is the land of coal and gas power plants, the CO2 emissions from the CNG Civic are similar or lower than the Leaf depending on the state you live in.”

    This is a half-truth at best. I think that Alex’s statement should read something more like, “Given the coal-heavy mix of power generation prevalent over much of the US, a Civic NG may well equal the well-to-wheels CO2 output of a BEV for many. If one lives in a region with cleaner power, on the other hand–with such regions including California, the Pacific NW, and much of the Northeast–then the EV will be the cleaner choice by far.”

    His statement-as-worded is probably making reference to the April Union of Concerned Scientists report [1]. If one looks at the report–page 13 in particular–then one can see that even in a “dirty” state like Michigan the MPGghg (see the report for how that’s defined) of an EV on the Michigan grid is 38. Note that Michigan’s mix of power is only about 10% less dirty than the dirtiest of regions (page 12), so this is close to the worst case. Given that the Civic NG gets 31 mpg combined then it’s evident that in Michigan and by extension over much of the country the Civic and a hypothetical Leaf are neck and neck in terms of CO2 emissions.

    Going back to page 13, in California the EV gets a MPGghg of 79, so is cleaner by a factor of 2. This is important both because California is where most EVs are currently in use, and because this example shows that routing natural gas to generate electricity in powerplants is a better idea on a national scale than running Civics with it.

    Finally, NPR’s grid visualizer [2] shows that many states are out there with power even cleaner than California’s. Which ones? A few of them include Washington, Oregon, Idaho (hydro heavy), New York, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine (hydro and nuclear power alike).

    (Full disclosure: I’m moving back to Seattle in a year and have read WAY too much about related topics. I’m planning on buying my wife an EV for use around Seattle, taking advantage not only of the default hydro-heavy power generation mix but also of Seattle City Light’s $12/month program to offset one’s electricity usage 100% with wind renewable energy credits [3]. I have no financial interest in power generation or automotive companies and am just an interested onlooker.)

    [1] http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/clean_vehicles/electric-car-global-warming-emissions-report.pdf
    [2] http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=110997398, click the second tab, “sources of power”
    [3] http://www.seattle.gov/light/green/greenpower/greenup.asp

  • avatar
    kokomokid

    Why does it lose power compared to the petrol burning version? I’d think the higher compression engine burning 120 octane fuel should gain, not lose power compared to the one burning 87 octane.

    • 0 avatar
      camman

      Two reasons, one – natural has less heat per gallon than gas, so less power and two higher octane has less power as the octane slows down the burn. This is why it is used in performance cars, to stop the ping, not to add power but to allow u to run higher compression that gives more power. The higher the octane the less energy per gallon put the more compression or cylinder pressure u can use. The increase in compression offsets the loss of power of higher octane fuel. So the lower the octane the more energy per gallon. So use the lowest octane u can for the best fuel economy, taking into consideration that computer controlled cars will change the timing to stop pinging and that will lower your power and economy. So the lowest octane that does not make your car ping is best for power and economy.


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  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India